Lavoro's (CLOSED)

A Memorable Experience

For my birthday, a couple of former college classmates treated me to Lavoro's, a family-owned Italian trattoria housed in a former KFC restaurant. It wasn't a place that was on my radar, although I have driven past it a lot while driving around Memphis. Fortunately, one of my friends said it was a place that he dined often at and had high praise for it. Also, because he was buying and had a "buy one, get one free entrée" coupon, he convinced me that this was the place to go. So, instead of going to a place like the more upscale Cortona, an Italian eatery located in Cooper-Young, I ended up in one of the nicest restaurants that I've been to in awhile.
After being seated in the patio, Omar (the friend with the coupon) suggested that we get an appetizer first.

For that, we went with the truffle-stuffed mushrooms covered with Mozzarella cheese and sprinklings of Parmesan cheese and parsley. I thought it was interesting that one fungus plant would be stuffed inside another, but it worked. Combined with the toppings, the stuffed mushrooms was a nice appetizer that left us yearning for more.
Once we finished eating the stuffed mushrooms, we decided to get a second appetizer, which was the creamed spinach dip. Accompanied by toasted bread, the dip was the usual fare that can be found at most bars and restaurants, although it was well received by our dinner party.

After knocking out the dip, we were more than ready for the main course. As we were about to order our entrées, the waiter server informed us that Lavoro's uses fresh ingredients, with many of them grown in the restaurant's garden. The garden surrounds the patio, consisting of many vegetables such as garlic, parsley and basil, with a scarecrow adorning it all. Impressed, I felt very confident that whatever I ordered was going to be good. After looking over the menu, I decided to go with the pesto tortellini with chicken. The reason I chose this was that the description piqued my curiosity, for the entrée had a "kiss" of cream. I never thought of pesto and cream as a combination in a sauce, but given that everything I had earlier was good, I gave it a try. Omar went with the special, which was penne in pomodoro sauce with pancetta. Meanwhile, my other friend Celeste chose the spinach lasagna.
As typical of most restaurants, the entrées came with salads. In choosing the type of salad we wanted, we all chose the Caesar. For the dressing, we went with the raspberry vinaigrette that I thought had the right balance of vinegar and sweetness.

Regarding the salad itself, I could be wrong, but I didn't detect any onions in it. In my opinion, onions ruin a salad, although many will disagree with me. Nonetheless, the Caesar salad with the raspberry vinaigrette was really good, and I'm sure my friends would agree.
Shortly after we finished our salads, the server brought out our entrées. I was visually impressed with what I ordered, for the pesto cream sauce was a nice lime green color. Seeing this made my mouth water, fueling the anticipation for an excellent meal.

Needless to say, I wasn't disappointed, for the pasta was superb. The taste of pesto within a cream sauce rather than olive oil is genius. Also, the cream was very thick, so I didn't worry about spilling any of it on my shirt, a common hazard when eating pesto-based pasta. The chicken in the tortellini dish were big chunks of perfectly roasted tender chicken breast that nicely accentuated the entrée. Overall, this was one of the better pasta dishes that I've had in a while. Kudos to the chef for coming up with a very original dish.
Regarding what my friends ate, both of them seemed pretty satisfied with their entr
ées. I even got a chance to taste Omar's dish, which was penne pasta with pancetta.

As far as I could tell from one bite, the penne pasta's sauce was thick with a good amount of garlic in it. Compared to what I had, the penne pasta was decent, though not as good as the tortellini. I didn't get the chance to taste Celeste's spinach lasagna, but judging from her enthusiasm, I believe she enjoyed it.
When everyone finished their main courses, we were about to leave when our server told us about the dessert special, the milk chocolate and strawberry bread pudding. The special was something that our server said he made himself, so out of respect to him, we ordered it. As expected, the bread pudding was rich in cream and sweetness, with a smooth texture. Even if I hadn't eaten anything else, the bread pudding would've still been a gut buster to me. My friends and I were all in agreement that the bread pudding was great and the perfect ending to a wonderful dinner.
In all, the experience I had at Lavoro's was excellent. The food was better than I expected, and is reminiscent of places I dined at during my stint in Italy. The only thing that I didn't like was that it didn't serve wine, a must-have in any Italian restaurant. However, Lavoro's had beer specials like the $1.50 Bud Light that I ordered, which is a really good deal. Also, and this is more of a suggestion, but if I owned the restaurant, I would convert the "order" counter to either a bar or a lunch counter. I would do this because I would want to convey more of a restaurant environment and less of a fast food atmosphere. Nonetheless, I liked everything about the place, including the service that is first class.
By the way, Lavoro's also serves pizza and sandwiches. Whenever I visit again (which will be very soon), I will definitely try that part of the menu. After my initial experience, I'm confident that whatever I order will be outstanding.
In closing, I want to thank Omar and Celeste for treating me to dinner, for it was very memorable. Not only did I enjoy the food, but I also enjoyed being in your company. It was a cherished experience that I won't forget. Thank you.


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