Monday, January 23, 2006

Z Cucina reviewed by Ralph Rosenfield

This review appears in the current issue of webzine, under Food Reviews

Z Cucina

Or simply “Z”. At last, a restaurant with a name that is easy to pronounce and remember. “Z” is a great example of creatively using space that a previous restaurant occupied, in a way that lets you know it’s a new place but doesn’t waste a lot of money replacing things that were perfectly good. “Z” is the creation of Rick Ziliak, owner (you know him already as the owner of the North Market’s “Pastaria”), Executive Chef Michael Jones, and Brian Pawlak, the Chef de Cuisine. These guys have created a place that is all about the food. Much like The Rossi, Basi Italia, or Rigsby’s. Sure, it’s hip and stylish, but the story is THE FOOD.

Jan and I went early Saturday evening just after scouting out stables for Jan to re-start her horseback riding interest and get in shape for a planned trip to Costa Rica. Since we were eating early and by ourselves, we didn’t sample a full range of menu items. Nevertheless, I think that what we did experience might be enough to encourage you to give “Z” a try.

We started our meal with a starter order of sweetbreads with butternut squash risotto. Unlike most sweetbread offerings, which tend to be sautéed in butter or olive oil, these were delicately and perfectly deep fried, leaving them light, plump, and full of the distinctive flavor and texture that sweetbreads are known for. The butternut squash risotto was a colorful and flavorful complement.

Our next treat was the Red Pepper and Parsnip Soup. This was done with a vegetable stock and was thick with a wonderful aroma. I think there may have been some onion and garlic added as well. We added some fresh ground pepper and were thrilled.

Next, Jan ordered the Classico Salade. This was made with field greens, pickled red onions, fresh asiago cheese, toasted hazelnuts with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. I had the Riserva Salade, with field greens, green beans, oven roasted tomatoes, and toasted pinenuts, with a ricotta salata cheese and pinenut dressing. Both were very good, fresh and delicious, but I think we liked the Classico better, maybe because the hazelnuts and very lively dressing made it just different enough to really set it apart.

We shared the main course - the special that evening - a braised Lamb shank done in its own juice and served with spinach and garlic mashed potatoes. This was a huge and tender shank, with all the savory flavor one would expect. At this point I should mention that Rick recommended the evening’s special wine, an Oregon Pinot Noir Kings Ridge and it was indeed a perfect match for our meal. The wine was good enough that I’ll be looking to add it to my at-home stock.

We were too full to sample any of the wonderful sounding desserts, but I have to tell you about a couple of other menu items that captured our interest – and will draw us back for another visit. The Bolognese Lasagna looked very hearty and rich as it passed by our table. I didn’t see the Cioppino but it sounded wonderful and we intend to try it next time. An impressive range of pasta, beef, veal and pork dishes also populate the menu, as did a Duck Breast Piedmontese that looked, well… good enough to eat!

For me, “Z” represents all that is great about fine restaurants - people coming together to share their passion, food, flavor, and friendship. I encourage everyone to support our city’s many chef/owner-operated establishments, such as “Z”, where you find well-trained, passionate people who make dining in Columbus such a great experience.

Z Cucina; 1368 Grandview Ave. Columbus, Ohio 614 486 9200 (reservations are recommended)

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