A jack of all trades, Jennifer Harvey’s enthusiasm for her many passions is evident in all that she does. During the week, she’s an expert gelataia who creates handcrafted gelato for three restaurants in Atlanta, but she spends her weekends delighting guests – many of whom have become lifelong friends – from behind the bar at La Tavola. Read on to learn more about Jennifer below, then visit her at La Tavola and be sure to say hello this weekend!
Where are you from?
I’m originally from Lancaster, Ohio, which is a little bit south of Columbus. I moved to Atlanta fifteen years ago while working as a flight attendant for ASA, which was a commuter of Delta Air Lines. I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to travel all over the world. My mom lives here now too, which is the best!
How long have you been with Fifth Group?
I’ve been with Fifth Group for 12 years – I was hired in 2006 – and have always worked at La Tavola. I actually left for a year to pursue other passions, but ended up returning because I missed the environment and family-like nature of the restaurant so much. It feels like home.
How did you get started in the hospitality industry?
One of the first jobs I ever had was serving tables back in Lancaster. When I left the airline industry, I feel in love with the Virginia-Highland neighborhood and decided to get back into serving. Enter La Tavola! I love taking care of people and this is the perfect outlet for that.
What is your role at La Tavola?
My technical title is bartender, but I feel like my role is so much more than that. Having been here for more than a decade, I strive to be a leader and example for newer teammates, and always try to encourage everyone around me to do their best. I truly “grew up” in this place, and I’m very passionate about living the Fifth Group values day in and day out.
What’s your favorite thing about being part of the Fifth Group family?
The connectivity I feel when I’m here – with both the employees I work with and the guests who come in. There’s truly nothing like it. I’ve learned a lot about life and about myself by taking care of others and working with the team to provide a dining experience that can make someone else’s day. I’ve met the greatest people during my time at La Tavola and it’s a very special place to me.
What is your favorite drink and dish at La Tavola?
It varies! Right now, I’m really into sparkling rosés, so I’d say a glass of the Col De Salice – it’s divine. As for the dish, I love any set up of our grilled calamari. It’s always cooked perfectly and changes seasonally, so it’s always something fresh. But if you want classic, quintessential La Tavola, get the Bolognese! My family is from Italy and I’ve always said I’d put our Bolognese up against any Italian dish any time.
What’s a fun fact about you?
Let’s see… I used to be an aerial artist and fitness instructor. Think Cirque du Soleil, silks, trapeze, etc. It’s a huge passion of mine and I’ve done it for years. My friends are opening a venue called Challenge Fitness in the Grant Park area soon, and I hope to be teaching a few classes there after they open!
What do you do when you’re not working at La Tavola?
During the week, I make gelatos for another restaurant, Novo Cucina in Dunwoody, as well as its sister concepts. Several years ago, my friends were having an ice cream-cookie-sandwich competition at their backyard party, and even though I’d never made ice cream before, I’m competitive and decided to give it a shot and created a Meyer lemon vanilla bean divine. From there, I kept making ice creams and fell in love with it. Being Italian, that led me to gelato. For my birthday in 2016, traveled to Bologna, Italy, to take a four-week gelato course at Carpigiani Gelato University – in fact, some of my regular guests at La Tavola helped me pay for the trip as a birthday gift, and it’s one of the most touching, selfless gifts I’ve received to this day. I’m now living my dream! Other than that, I love to be with the people I love, and go out to eat in the city.
*Read more about Jennifer’s gelato adventures here!
What is your favorite food-related “guilty” pleasure?
Probably doughnuts or any hand-crafted pastries. Or a good, juicy cheeseburger!
Who is your favorite celebrity chef?
Laura Vitale. She reminds me of my mom, who’s Italian! But also Anthony Bourdain. What he accomplished in his life by connecting people with food and travel has been very inspiring to me. He taught people how to make a meal an experience.
What are three adjectives that best describe you?
Energetic, dedicated and genuine.
Who inspires you most in your career?
I draw inspiration from all the people in my life, but if I have to choose one, it would be my mother. She’s incredibly supportive of me and my number one fan. She truly makes me want to be the best version of myself that I can be.
If you could take one person, living or dead, to dinner at a Fifth Group Restaurant, who would it be and where would you take them?
I’d have to take my uncle Tony to La Tavola! He lives in Italy, in the same house he and my mother grew up in. I’d love to show him what we do here and what I’ve been bragging about during my visits all these years!