La Tartaruga is an unexpected culinary gem found in Tobago. I wanted to go there based on the recommendation of another blogger. I wasn’t sure what to expect, being an Italian restaurant in a small Caribbean island. All I knew was that my friends had a good experience and it seemed like a restaurant worth checking out.
To say I was blown away would be a massive understatement, La Tartaruga has both, amazing food and service. When we got there it was fairly packed. There was room but they were honest enough to warn us that the kitchen was slammed and it would be a wait to get food. Since we got in that day and were hungry, we decided to walk around and see what our options were. Nothing was more appealing than La Tartaruga.
We decided to go back and have some drinks and appetizers while we waited for our mains. They seated us on the downstairs deck and were gracious enough to allow us to order from the upstairs menu although we were outside. The menus are basically the same, just that the upstairs has a couple more options. We got our beers immediately and put in the order for our food one time to hopefully speed up the process. We strategically ordered the taste of the three cheeses appetizer hoping it might come quickly. Our gamble payed off. Pro tip: do not sleep on the Parmigiano Reggiano. It comes as one of the three cheeses but it was so good we ordered another serving because it was so incredible. This wasn’t just any Parmesan. It is the kind of cheese that makes you understand why someone would order cheese instead of an actual meal. It was not only sharp, nutty and salty but it had that illusive umami flavor that a lot of people talk about, but few can explain. It was absolutely wonderful.
At this point, it was becoming apparent that the parmigiano reggiano had changed the trajectory of our meal, so our drink game would have to step up. We asked to see the wine list. After perusing the wine list for a couple of minutes, our waiter asked if we needed any help with the list, like any good sommelier does. The wine list was considerable on the verge of being overwhelming. Luckily our waiter was excited to help. The fact is that La Tartaruga is also a wine shop. A fact I saw but didn’t particularly put any stock in at first. We were shown their wine room and it became obvious this wasn’t just any pasta joint. All good restaurants have wine lists because it is expected, however it is obvious that it is more of a passion at La Tartaruga. We probably talked for the better part of an hour about wine, food, and everything in between before we finally settled on the right bottle.
Our evening slowly evolved from a necessary dinner to a delightfully casual dining experience. Since we took so long choosing a wine, our penne pastas were soon ready. Although they were a just bolognese and shrimp arrabiata, there was a surprising amount of flavor development. Both sauces were complex with a welcomed sweetness that was absolutely refreshing. The overpowering happiness we felt from our food insisted that we begged our waiter to sit and join us for a glass of wine that he was instrumental in picking. After some convincing he agreed to sit and chat even more, telling us all about himself and life on the island. We ended up ordering dessert just to have an excuse to bask a little longer in the glow of our meal.
We sat, drank and ate for almost four hours. Enjoying every minute of it because of the delicious food and wonderful staff. I’m not sure if we had such a great experience because we had absolutely no expectations and ended up having little surprises throughout the night which kept adding to the experience or because La Tartaruga is just an exceptional restaurant. Either way, I will never forget that night and look forward to going back and recreating the experience repeatedly.
For more information on La Tartaruga visit their website. When you go make sure to tell them who sent you and remember to thank them early for a wonderful dining experience.