Home > Bars and Restaurants, CT Bars and Restaurants, Experiences > Italian Tapas? Sì, Signore!

Italian Tapas? Sì, Signore!

September 27, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

DSC_0765Can’t tell you why, but this local Stamford restaurant, called Zaza Italian Gastorbar, had been on my “must try” list for a while. Something in that name, Zaza Gastorbar, is utterly attractive – the same way as you look at the creative wine label and say “wow, cool label, wonder how it tastes like”, the name “Zaza Gastrobar” had that effect on me. I guess it was a promise of a unique experience hiding in a word “gastrobar“. Finally, the convenient occasion presented itself, and off we went.

While it is hard to say that Stamford has its culinary Mecca section of the town, if anything, an intersection of Broad, Bedford, Summer and Atlantic streets can be designated as one – this is where lots of restaurants are located. The good thing in Stamford is that you don’t need to worry about the parking. Unlike many towns nearby, where you need to run circles looking for the street parking, downtown Stamford has plenty of parking garages to accommodate all the hungry people. Well, okay, enough about parking, let’s talk about the restaurant.

Zaza doesn’t accept reservations, but we had no problems finding the table for 6 on Thursday at 6:30. From the moment we walked in, I liked the way the restaurant is decorated, it felt modern but comfortable. One thing you need to be aware of – the place gets noisy. But, when the restaurant is good and busy, which doesn’t?

I love trying food as opposed to just eating. Whenever available, my strong preference is tapas, chef tasting menu, dim sum, or any variation on the theme of small plates. Now, when you think of an Italian restaurant, do you think of it in terms of the small plates? I’m sure first thing which comes to mind is a full plate of pasta, or pizza, or mozzarella sticks. But Zaza, to my absolute delight, has a whole menu section, which is called… yes, Italian Tapas! Luckily, our friends share the same outlook on food, so this was an  Italian Tapas night!

Before we get to the food ( mostly in pictures), few words about the wines. I would call the wine list somewhat limited – however, considering that it contains the options starting from $25/bottle, I can’t really complain. We started with 2012 Honig Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley, which is one of the best examples of Napa Sauvignon Blanc – just enough citrus notes, with some fresh grass and delicate finish, very round – that was definitely a great start to our meal. At $46 on the list, it was also a relative bargain (about triple retail).

And then, there was food. In no particular order:

Calamari Fritti, lightly fried, tomato sauce – very well done, light, crispy:

Calamari Fritti

Calamari Fritti

Potato Gnocchi, Butternut Squash, Cream Sauce – not only it was a butternut squash sauce, but butternut squash was perfectly present in the dish. Lightly sweet and delicious together.

Potato Gnocchi

Potato Gnocchi

Tuscan Beans, Spicy Tomatoes, Garlic, Pancetta, Olive oil – pancetta makes everything taste better, right? I’m a sucker for white beans, and this dish was perfectly balanced, great flavor profile with a light  crunch of crispy fried pancetta.

Tuscan Beans

Tuscan Beans

Lamb Sliders, lamb, polenta, Barolo wine sauce – you expect to see a bun on the traditional sliders – but not on this Zaza slider. Polenta cake was topping off the lamb patty, resembling bun in the appearance -but of course it was no bun at all. Excellent herbal flavor profile on lamb, not overpowering, but working together  – this dish just transports you to Mediterranea…


Lamb Sliders with Polenta Cake

Next up – Tuscan Tuna Tartare, fresh Tuna, tomato, capers, basil, balsamic. Love tuna tartare, but I’m typically very dreadful when ordering it. My problem is that a number of tuna tartare dishes I tasted had the same issue – flavor is only on the outside, and once you dig in, the flavor is gone and you are one of one with fresh, but almost tasteless fish. This time, the dish was perfect. Every little morsel was tasty, in and out – a great combination of refreshing lemony acidity, balsamic, saltiness – very successful dish.

Tuscan Tuna Tartare

Tuscan Tuna Tartare

Next up – Baby Lamb Chop, rosemary, olive oil, arugula, balsamic. I have to admit – I’m a snob when it comes to the lamb chop. About 15 years ago, I was spoiled back in Montreal – the lamb chop I had there was a surreal perfection. Now I measure everything against that experience. I’m glad to report that Zaza’s lamb chop was very close to that perfection – succulent and delicious.

Baby Lamb Chop

Baby Lamb Chop

I need to mention another wine we ordered. We wanted to drink something red, and I had a problem selecting the wine, both in terms of what I want to drink and what I want to pay. I asked for the taste of the two wines I didn’t know – Montepulciano and red blend from California. While the red blend was not perfect, it was still better than Montepulciano. Thus our choice of red was 2009 Lost Angel Mischief Red Wine, California (13.5% ABV), a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel.

Lost Angel Red Wine

Lost Angel Red Wine

My goal was to find an inexpensive, but palatable wine. At $35, it was definitely inexpensive as the wine list prices are concerned. Had I known that you can find this wine in retail for about $8 – $10, I would probably not ordered it. However, to be entirely honest, it was drinkable – while it was clearly the fruit forward with almost a sweet finish, it carried enough weight and balance to be pleasant (didn’t have any of that  over-extracted fruit, which I personally can’t stand). I would not buy this wine to drink at home, but if this would be my only “budget” choice on the wine list, I will drink it again.

Almost as an afterthought, but at the same time very apropos, we ordered a cheese sampler platter right after we were done with the most of the meal. The Cheese Sampler included Buffala Mozarella, Burrata, Stracciatella and Scamorza. Burrata is one of my all time favorite Italian cheeses, and then there was creamy and spreadable Stracciatella – wow, the word “delicious” does only half justice to the way this cheese tastes.

Cheese Sampler

Cheese Sampler

And then of course there was the dessert – everything was very tasty, and I’m not going to inundate you with the details – you can drool on your own:

It is time to conclude the report on this culinary extravaganza. The food was delicious, service was excellent – prompt, attentive, with the smile – the way you want to be treated in a restaurant. I will gladly come back to Zaza at any time. My only concern is the limited selection on the wine list, so next time I might come back with my own bottle – but this is not the wine bar, after all, it is a Gastrobar – and I think it suits this description perfectly.

And we are done here. Until the next time – cheers!

Zaza Italian Gastrobar
PHONE: 203.348.2300
ZAZA Italian Gastrobar on Urbanspoon

  1. September 27, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    That was butternut squash??? I thought it was a canteloupe in gnocchi. LOL!

    • talkavino
      September 27, 2013 at 5:26 pm

      See, next time you have to bring glasses!

  2. September 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Sounds like my kind of night out! And the name really is fabulously fun to say.

    • talkavino
      September 27, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Clearly there is something subliminal in this name : )

  3. September 27, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    We LOVE ZaZa! so many great things to choose from! Their pizza is also excellent 😉

    • talkavino
      September 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm

      Believe it or not, but it was our first time in this restaurant! Everything was delicious! Will try pizza next time.

  4. September 27, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    You had me at gnocchi, but all the dishes look wonderful! My favorite way to dine is tapas style, that way I can try a bit of everything.

    • talkavino
      September 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

      yep, tapas is my favorite style as well.

  5. September 27, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Potato gnocchi + butternut squash = home run!! YUM!!

    • talkavino
      September 28, 2013 at 6:59 am

      it was definitely good!

  6. September 27, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    The food looks super delicious, especially the Gnocchi! Calamari Fritti is one of my favorite Italian dishes. I can eat it almost everyday when I’m on vacation in Italy 🙂

    • talkavino
      September 28, 2013 at 7:03 am

      Calamari are very popular dish in many US restaurants. However, in many places they are overcooked or have too much breading. Here at Zaza, calamari were done very well.

  7. Vlado
    September 28, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I like seefood :-):-):-)

  8. September 29, 2013 at 10:57 pm

    Buffalo mozzarella, burrata and stracciatella… hmmmm… Yum!
    Sounds like a solid place – the only thing, as you suggested, is that they probably should work a little bit on their wine list.
    Cool review as always, Anatoli.

  9. October 3, 2013 at 10:03 am

    The pictures are divine – everything looks so yummy!

    • talkavino
      October 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

      I always hope to convey the taste with my pictures… Glad you like the pictures!

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