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First glimpse at new look for well-known venue as it closes its doors to the public

A new chapter is being marked in the 200-year-old history of a popular Leamington watering hole, as work gets under way on its major transformation into a new-look Italian restaurant.

The first glimpse of the new design for Tavola has been unveiled – inspired by Italian surrealist painters of the 1920’s – as the doors close on the current café in Clarendon Street this week.

Tavola, Leamington, Ialian

It comes exactly one year after 44 Café, Bar & Bistro was taken over by entrepreneur Rob Singleton, supported by Gavin Leach, both from Leamington, and marks the boldest change yet for this familiar corner of the town.

Rob said: “The building is so bright and airy with the roof lantern and full-length windows. We love the quirky layout that comes from organic changes over the history of the pub.

Tavola, Leamington, Italian

“The rebranding is a natural extension of the refurbishment. Bar 44 has history that we are proud of but it doesn’t capture what we do now.

“When we took over last year it seemed natural to put up a sign saying 44 as that is what the locals know this building as. For the last year we have been trading as 44, but as much as we love 44 the way it is, the long term plan was always to refurbish when we had established ourselves and built a good team.”

Heading up that team is a familiar face to regulars, Luke Hampson, who stayed on as front of house manager and mixologist after several years in the business’s more recent history.

Tavola, Leamington, Italian, Rob Singleton

Central to the restaurant’s new culinary identity though is executive chef hailing from Tuscany, Martin Serafino.

From his kitchen he looks forward to showcasing his passion for authentic Italian cooking through his new menu, the secret to which, he says, is a combination of ‘tradition and innovation.’

“The Tavola ethos is all about using the very best quality Italian products, sourced from Northern Italy, and for me that’s just a joy,” he says.

“I’m very excited for this new menu. I want to encourage people to try something they never tried before. I love to express myself through food so there will be some experimenting. But my main goal is to share the beauty of my own country as well as celebrating how every country has different traditions and different ways to cook.”

Martin’s own cooking influences also include time working in kitchens in New York and London.

But it was only after a health condition forced him to abandon his aspiring career as a professional footballer in Tuscany, that he instead decided to pursue his second passion for cooking.

He said: “When I developed gastroenteritis, I changed my diet completely but, unfortunately, after two years, I had to stop playing at a high level. I was trying to eat healthier so started eliminating all processed food and eating vegetables from our own garden as well as educating myself about healthy eating. This helped create my passion for food and cooking and I started to dedicate myself instead to food. I got very involved in what I was eating, how I was making the food and where it was coming from.”

Martin will also be serving up what he believes to be a first for Leamington – his signature Schiacciata sandwich range – a special pressed focaccia that promises a ‘light and fluffy explosion of flavours.’

Tavola, Leamington, Italian, Rob Singleton

As the doors closing on 44, signal the end of one chapter, they also herald in the start of a new exciting one for this Leamington business, in May.

Rob said: “We chose the name Tavola, which translates from Italian as ‘a table you would dine at,’ as it perfectly encapsulates the way our guests have been utilising our restaurant. The focus is on the table, not only the food and drink on it but the people around it.

“We look forward to unveiling the vibrant and fresh new look which befits this quirky building and complements the imaginative new menu as we start this new chapter of the story of this little corner of Leamington Spa.”

44 is due to close its doors on Monday. (March 18th).