New and Improved

Taverna expands, adding craft cocktails, a private dining room and quick-casual lunch service

Soppressata pizza
Caron Streibich
Create-your-own cheese and charcuterie plate
Caron Streibich
A new private dining room
Caron Streibich
House-made pappardelle pasta with Bolognese sauce and parmigiano reggiano cheese
Caron Streibich
The margherita brick-oven pizza
Caron Streibich
Sautéed calamari
Caron Streibich
The potatoes bravas
Caron Streibich
Strawberry balsamic gelato
Caron Streibich
A trio of mini mint chip ice cream sandwiches
Caron Streibich
Meatballs with grilled peasant bread
Caron Streibich
The margherita brick-oven pizza
Caron Streibich
Caron Streibich
Corn risotto
Caron Streibich

1986 San Marco Blvd., 398-3005,

It's hard to top a great meal enjoyed in a modern space with a well-curated wine list in the center of bustling, historic San Marco Square. Taverna recently expanded after four years in the former Café Carmon spot. It's evident that Executive Chef Sam Efron and wine director/wife Kiley Wynne Efron are passionate about the new environment and wider-ranging menu.

So what's new? Taverna now boasts a quick-casual lunch service along with an option for lunch delivery, a classy private dining room and the addition of craft cocktails (they'd offered only beer and wine before) to the menu.

The menu remains European-inspired, drawing from both Spain and Italy. Start with the house-made caprese ($10) with prosciutto ($6), meatballs and peasant bread ($10), sautéed calamari ($12) or citrus-marinated beet salad ($9).

The caprese's house-made cheese is amazing in and of itself, but when paired with fresh basil, juicy tomato, balsamic and olive oil, it's a huge hit. (The upcharge to add prosciutto is worth every penny.) The meatballs were also good, and the calamari served with Israeli couscous, tomatoes, garlic, capers, niçoise olives and a touch of lemon zest was just the right amount of spicy.

Speaking of great cheese, Taverna's customizable cheese-and-charcuterie plates are another smart way to start your meal. And since the selections change frequently, be sure to partake in Sweet Grass Dairy's delightfully creamy Green Hill, from Thomasville, Ga. The meat selections include popular cured meats like jamon Serrano, prosciutto di parma, hot capocollo, soppressata, Genoa salami and chorizo.

Lately, it's been hard to pass up the Monday night special — any of Taverna's signature brick-oven pizzas paired with a pint of cold Intuition Ale Works beer for $12. The pizzas usually run up to $18, and another $5 for the beer. (That's 11 bucks you can put toward dessert.) I recommend the soppressata — topped with house-made mozzarella, juicy robust San Marzano tomatoes, Italian dry salami and a fried egg with a delightfully runny center.

The made-in-house pappardelle pasta with Bolognese sauce and shaved parmigiano reggiano cheese is another Italian standout. The thick flat noodles work well with the meaty sauce and fresh cheese.

End your meal on a sweet note by opting for the trio of mini mint chip ice cream sandwiches, or ask about the daily flavors of homemade ice creams and sorbets. My scoop of strawberry balsamic gelato was perfectly round and extra creamy, garnished with a crunchy little cookie.

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