A Tavola Gastronomia – Alessio’s sweet taste of Sicily in the High Peak

High summer in Sicily and the carefree boys will be leaping off the quayside at Cefalu,  location for Cinema Paradiso; in New Mills fewer, if any, will fancy a dive into the murky Peak Forest Canal or the River Goyt. 

Taking a plunge on Cannoli, now that’s another matter. At A Tavola Gastronomia Sicilia I’ve lined up a trio of these sweet fried pastry tubes filled with fresh Agrigento ricotta, Etna pistachio and the like. To close a glorious lunch ‘from the old country’ in a Technicolor Mediterranean setting my brother and I are sharing them alongside scoops of ice cream, one intensely lemony, the other showcasing the legendary dark chocolate of Modica, spectacular Baroque home town of A Tavola’s owner/chef Alessio Muccio. His restaurant journey to the former Beehive pub has taken him via stints in the old Stock restaurant in central Manchester, Mamma Mia in Denton and Reddish. 

This proud Sicilian and his open kitchen team make the cannoli, the gelato, much of the pasta we never ordered and the arancini that thankfully we did. Alessio’s front of house partner Nicky Owen beams with enthusiasm when we tell her these awesome cones of deep-fried, breadcrumbed rice are the best we’ve ever tasted, vanquishing those tiny balls of leftover risotto rice that are the norm in the chain Italians. At the heart of mine is a torrent of ragu and molten mozzarella.

Mixed feelings about the caponata on sourdough bruschetta but, as Nicky points out every family across the island of Sicily offers their own version of this sweet and sour aubergine dish. A Tavola’s is light on the capers and vinegar, unlike my own take, which is sometimes too Cosa Nostra ferocious. There looks to be a lightness of touch across the whole menu here. Testimony to which exemplary fritto misto, a bargain to share at £14.50 with its cornucopia of red mullet, whitebait, calamari, sardine fillets, anchovies and king prawns… only the latter, from Argentina, perhaps over-crisped in the frier.

Of course, there are pasta and pizzas on the menu (with a mission statement abut the quality and sustainability of the flour they use). Readers of my website will be aware of my obsession with Pasta all Norma. Yes, that pinnacle of Sicilian primi is there, the sauce with ricotta salata and mint applied to Casarecce (short durum wheat twists), Bravo.

The menu is apparently based on a book of family recipes passed down by his father. Among the riot of Sicilian artefacts and keepsakes across two floors there are pictures of family and, on the stairs, Al Pacino and other Godfather luminaries, who I presume are not related.

All in all, the whole place feels like a labour of love with some 30 covers inside and the same number outside, served by staff predominantly from Sicily. The raw materials, too, sing of that rich culinary melting pot – sasizza (fennel sausage), grassy olive oil, wines,  even Sicilian craft lagers (they also have plans to commission a house beer from the estimable Torrside Brewing in the town). Check out the Sicilian deli, selling pasta, condiments and chutneys.

A Tavola Gastronomia Siciliana, 67 Albion Rd, New Mills, High Peak SK22 3EY. Open 4pm-11pm Tuesday-Thursday, 1pm-11pm Friday and Saturday.

Main image, courtesy of PMW Photography, is from the glorious A Tavola website gallery.