At 11AM on the morning of Monday, October 14, 2019, 14 hungry students gathered at Tavola Trattoria, an Italian restaurant located in Bentonville, AR.
Taught by renowned culinary expert, Erin Rowe, the class ate and learned about the Italian roots in the Ozarks that led to the creation of the restaurant. “Tavola” as Rowe called it, takes its origins from Tuscany, Italy. Rowe highlighted her own experiences in Italy, and how she, “had the best experiences from my trip in beautiful Tuscany.”
Rowe originates from Siloam Springs, and travels across the state of Arkansas teaching and touring about Ozark Cooking. She attended Maui Culinary Academy but mostly learned by trial and error, cooking her way through the infamous Joy of Cooking. Its stained pages have followed her moves around the world many times. She first wrote about food penning restaurant reviews for Maui No Ka ‘Oi magazine and has since become a culinary expert for the NWA community.
Next up were the appetizers! Marcelino, the waiter, brought out homemade and delicious Focaccia bread toasted and buttered with Marinara Sauce on the side. OLLI students then placed their orders, with drink options providing wine. Students ordered an array of dishes, from Tavola’s famous Lasagna, to specialized Wagyu Meatballs. All the dishes came with a side salad. The restaurant had an airy feel, but a family warmth to it, and students were treated to a presentation by teacher, Erin Rowe.
Rowe gave personal accounts of how local restaurants such as Tavola have found footing in the Northwest Arkansas region, and how Tontitown as contributed to the Italian culture. Rowe gave a personal account, describing her research as she wrote her book, An Ozark Culinary History: Northwest Arkansas Traditions from Corn Dodgers to Squirrel Meatloaf. Rowe went all over the state of Arkansas, asking people about their roots, and making connections to culinary trends. Rowe continued to do this at Tavola, asking OLLI students where they were from, and what made them decide to try her class.
Rowe offers a great, hands-on, fork-in teaching style that all students will love. She will teach more classes this Fall as she travels all over Northwest Arkansas.