March 13, 2008

Ithaca Bites: Great for a Date

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Restaurants are like dates. There’s the exhilarating, flashy one that knocks your socks off; the smoky, grungy one that gets your dark side; and the take-out one that meets your need for a quickie. But when it comes to lasting romance, you crave the sort of comfort you can count on again and again from ZaZa’s Cucina, Lex Chutinaround’s restaurant in downtown Ithaca. With its traditional Northern Italian cuisine and eclectic elegance, ZaZa’s is just the kind of place you can see a future with.
The bi-level dining floor and thoroughly modern bar are complemented by rich details like velvet-covered columns, twinkling bronze and fiber-optic lights and a pillowy ceiling. The open kitchen — for those who like to feast with their eyes — and roaring fire surrounded by low couches add to the ambience and create what Chutinaround describes as a “visually busy, energetic vibe.”
The bar features an extensive collection of drinks and cocktails. The wine list offers more than 130 Italian selections alone and many more from around the world. This vast selection lives up to ZaZa’s philosophy of “bring[ing] together great company, fine wine and savory Italian dishes.”
Try not to fill up on the Tuscan bread, baked fresh daily and served with tomato and pesto dipping sauces, before gorging yourself with appetizers. Popular antipasto dishes include the Prince Edward Island mussels that have a “lemon zest” to them, fresh buffalo mozzarella with vine ripe tomatoes and basil with a light balsamic reduction and semolina crusted fried calamari.
On to the main course: pan-seared peppercorn-crusted yellowfin tuna served with balsamic Dijon sauce, based on the attentive staff’s recommendation. Eggplant and chicken parmesian with fresh mozzarella (beware of large portions).
Not to mention seven different types of pasta made fresh daily, ranging from spaghetti to ravioli to gnocchi. Entrées range from $15 to $24 and all feature imported, gourmet ingredients presented beautifully without compromising quality or quantity.
For dessert, try the raspberry panna cotta which has a light texture and is sweet on the palate, or go for the chocolate “soufflé” cake made with a rich, bitter chocolate.
At the end of the night, unlike those dates, ZaZa’s might even be true love.