Well outside the garden of trattorias and enotecas restaurants along College street sits Zucca, which many consider the great pumpkin of Italian food. It has a Zagat rating of 26 and Joanne Kates’ has had it just out of the bronze medal position for two years running, trumping godfathers like Mistura and prodigies like Campagnolo. Zucca’s message is simple; turn great ingredients into great food.
I have two confessions:
1. I like playing with my food. I had memories of high school when I had the opportunity to dissect a fish instead of a frog. However, instead of searching for lungs and livers I discovered bouquets of slightly charred thyme and rosemary. I’d give the fish itself an A. My dissection skills, however, get a solid B as I only had a few of those awkward moments (you know…when you miss a bone and want to save face by subtly removing it from your mouth with the cough into the napkin trick or just chewing lots, swallowing and hoping you don’t end up with an mild esophageal tear).
2. I have no idea what kind of fish I had. It was deep sea, delicious and referred to as scarinno on the bill, a word that does not exist on google searches or food dictionaries and costs $40. I emailed Zucca, tweeted Mario Batelli and searched Italian fish blogs to no avail. So, in the end I have to swallow my pride in a manner similar to one of those tiny fish bones.
How can you go wrong with fresh tagliatelle with octopus, pine nuts and a tad of prosciutto? The $16 appetizer size hit the spot. The pasta was delicious. It wasn’t overly greasy and the additions had good textural contrast.
If you want a plate of meat topped with some cheese and a few sliced cactus pears, then you’re in luck. It’s a decent offering of fresh ingredients with a pleasant presentation.
The affogato di caffe was a fitting end to a meal. It strays a bit from simple with two types of gelato and a massive wafer but maintains the fundamentals of this classic dessert…and it even comes with a cute paper doilee.
Although there was nothing mundane about the food, it is old school in service and decor (including a rather awkward design). It’s a bit on the yawnish side and will likely never be considered trendy, but it is well established without the need to peddle wine on tap, neapolitan wood fired pizza or mama’s homemade meatballs.
Pine nuts, polipo and pears…..oh my! Although it’s a bit sleepy, it has great food, great service and nameless fish. It’s fitting for a business meal or grandma’s 70th birthday but wouldn’t be the venue where you’d retweet witty vignettes about the jays home opener or copious consumption of cleverly named cocktails. It’s a place where you can relax, wear slacks, consume , hear yourself think and once the food comes not have to wait very long for proof that the great pumpkin does exist.