Tutti a Tavola!

Contributed by: Louise Boultbee

“Tutti a tavola!” In Italian, that means ‘everyone at the table. For a young Tony Cammalleri, hearing those words meant good food was about to be served in the company of family and friends.

So when he launched his latest culinary endeavour in 2020, “Tavola” felt like the perfect name. Fiesta welcomes Tavola to the table with its full line of prepared dishes, salads, pastas and sauces in our new kitchen.

Tavola at Fiesta Farms

Tavola’s story is a lifetime in the making and starts with a kid growing up on his parents’ hobby farm in Bolton. Ten acres with three greenhouses, cows, chickens, sheep, goats, fig trees and gardens.

“My brother and I grew up as farmers,” Tony says, “We woke up–there were no cartoons. It was straight to the barn to feed animals and then water plants.” Hearing Tony talk about all the labour on the farm might leave you wondering if the words ‘hobby’ and ‘farm’ ever belonged together.

In the afternoons, when Tony finished his chores, he’d turned to his love of drawing and design. “I decided to be an architect. I felt clear about it and had even been accepted into a university program. I was excited,” Tony recalls with a smile, “And then one summer, I worked in a restaurant and fell in love with food. I felt I had found my calling.” It was a calling connected to his mom, dad and grandmother, all of whom he describes as great cooks.

Tony enrolled in the culinary program at George Brown. He worked through basic and advanced apprentice stages before moving on to a seven-month course of study in the ancient Italian town of Bergamo Citta Alta outside Milan. Within the walls of this medieval fortress town, Tony experienced a remarkable shift in mindset.

He explains, “In Toronto in the early nineties, for the most part, cooks were people who’d fallen into the work as a way to pay bills; often, they were ex-cons. Cooking wasn’t considered a real profession. But arriving in Italy for the first time, I felt how they regarded chefs–on the same level as doctors, lawyers and architects. It was a craft. You had the respect of the town. This motivated me to be a pro.”

Mindset and motivation are key themes for Tony. You immediately sense his passion for and commitment to his craft. While super focused, there’s also warmth and curiosity in his manner. He’s alert, listens, and is willing to explore, learn, make mistakes, and keep exploring. “What inspires us,” Tony says, “is meaningful eating. We’re not simply about creating food to fill bellies.”

Tony left his transformative experience in Italy. He honed his craft in restaurants, banquet halls, and resorts. Each endeavour along his creative journey is worth its own story. But it was working in gourmet grocery more recently that led Tony to reflect, “Instead of serving fifty people a night, how about serving thousands of people each week? How might we elevate the grocery experience to include prepared dishes with ingredients like lobster, sea bass and lamb chops? How do we engage with customers in their home culinary experience?”

The answers came in 2020, with the creation of Tavola. The focus: The best-prepared food for the best price in grocery and catering. Period.

In everything that Tony describes, you feel his respect for the customer. He loves how informed people have become. How much they know about food sourcing, ingredients, preparation methods, packaging, and sustainability. For him, there is an authentic dialogue. Tavola is eager to inspire people and be inspired by people and culture, even the pop-iest pop culture items from around the world.

One pop entry point into the Tavola world is their take on the ultimate comfort food, mac and cheese. “Our crust takes it to a new level,” Tony explains, “It’s not overly complicated, just careful execution and balance with excellent cheeses.”

Got room for one more bit of mouth-watering yum? Listen to Tony describe Tavola’s take on their brisket burger:

“We’ve got caramelized onions, melted fontina cheese, Pommery mustard aioli and baby arugula on a sesame seed brioche bun. It’s the perfect balance of sweet, salty and savoury–and you get all those flavours in every bite.”

You know, we’re not so sure you ever left that path of design behind, Mr. Cammalleri. Quite the contrary – you’re the architect of something special. Fiesta is happy to be part of it, and we wish you and Tavola every success.

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