Dining with strangers is a 'wonderfully unique experience'

Family-style meals sweep the Scenic City

The antipasti course offers taleggio cheese, apples and walnuts.

Multicourse, family-style dinners offered by Scenic City chefs are gaining popularity with local diners, and I've jumped wholeheartedly on that bandwagon. My first experience was at Signal Mountain's Hummingbird Pastaria, which hosts its communal Tavolata dinners the last Monday of each month. While there's no exact English translation, "tavolata" is basically Italian for "a merry table of friends."

Upon entering the cozy Italian eatery, guests choose their seats at a table set for about 20 diners. Some people come alone or as a couple, and others bring a few friends. Couples can sit next to or across from each other, but are asked to avoid leaving open seats so other parties won't have to split up.