Zucca is clean and crisp and the staff are generally smiling because they want to, not because they have to, normally a good sign. Despite the snow and the late lunching hour, the place remains buoyant with a relaxed buzz to the room. There’s a white theme, a wood theme and a little bit of concrete theme as a nod to the area’s industrial working heritage.
Continuing the clean lines, the menu comes out printed on weighted paper, no leather wallet. The real beauty behind this nevertheless is substance over style: the menu is constantly changing for the ingredients to hand and the season and in turn is constantly reprinted to keep pace with the change; leather wallets are superfluous. That’s surely what anyone wants from a restaurant, not the same menu from a year back offering bought in pre-prepared lasagne (possibly frozen from a year back also). And while we’re on the subject of food choice, while of course there’s nothing wrong spaghetti bolognaise or cannelloni, Zucca has considerable ambition in highlighting more progressive Italian food rather than stock favourites; the menu reflects this.
Turning to the menu itself, there’s a wide range of antipasti but just two pasta choices followed by three fish and three meat dishes. We think this is probably the right number. We’ve been to too many restaurants that offer an extensive and ostensibly great sounding menu but then fail to deliver on the promise at the individual dish level because it’s all too much for the kitchen. A shorter menu better executed is always preferable and it gives us hope that Zucca will live up to its growing reputation.
First out for the table to share is the ‘Zucca’ Fritti, zucca being the Italian word for pumpkin and also explaining why they have three pumpkins on the counter despite Halloween having passed over a month ago. As well as pumpkin there’s delicious sage. Suitably hot, this really is just out the fryer, it’s got a light crisp batter coating that makes a satisfying crunch as you bite down and became really quite moreish. It contrasted with Cafe Caldesi several weeks back that offered an incredibly disappointing Fritto Misto with a batter that we suggested at the time was reminiscent of wet cardboard. It falls to Zucca than to provide the real thing.
We discussed the issue of fat running through beef resulting in the beef being called marbled, what was the term for fat in pork? This rolled belly was well endowed with fat but cooked so the fat was the very best part, oozing rich pork flavours in the mouth. It’s on days like today with dishes like this that makes me care little for the heart attack I’m saving for in my retirement. The beans, cooked in pork fat also were as good as beans get for me but there seemed a few too many of them, I’d rather save space for dessert.
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