Downtown LA is the last major obstacle between me and home on my daily west-to-east commute. Already battered by the indignities of the Santa Monica Freeway, I usually ditch the 110 and weave my way through the city streets instead. However traumatizing, this drive has proven a great tool for bringing restaurants to my attention.
One place I drive by and wonder about a lot is Zucca, so I was excited when I got an invite to try out the Italian restaurant’s new Piazza menu. The main perk of this al fresco service (menu is served on the patio) is that the large selection of small plates—antipasti, oven-fired pizzas, salads and pastas—are fairly inexpensive. Nothing over $12, all day from 11:30 to 9pm.
We mixed and matched the Piazza menu with some items from Zucca’s regular menu for a nice Monday night meal. One of the first dishes we agreed on was the Meatballs, which were airier than expected and served in a sweet, chunky marinara. The dish paired nicely with the refined Romana salad, topped with hearty polenta croutons, shavings of parmigano-reggiano, and a light-but-zesty lemon anchovy dressing.
I was intrigued by the Zucca Pizza and, luckily, so was my dining companion. The crispy crust was a big hit and a good foil to the suavely-textured butternut squash and goat cheese. The speck is a great addition to this pizza, adding salty high points to every bite. Carmelized onions were a nice touch to this really delicious and decidedly un-boring pizza.
Ordering calamari is generally a crapshoot, but at a classy joint like Zucca, it’s sometimes worth the risk. I’d say this one was a success. Including zucchini and shrimp, this misto fritto didn’t overwhelm with heavy or overly salty batter. The aoli dipping sauce was a little too heavy for the fried dish, however, and I think I would have preferred a lighter sauce (perhaps with some more spice) for dipping.
We went off the Piazza menu for our pasta choice because the Spaghetti alla Chitara con Ragu di Pesce sounded too good to pass up. I know the saying goes, “never order seafood on a Monday,” but the calamari, shrimp, and clams in this dish—all very fresh—defied the spirit of that advice. The pasta was pretty perfect while the sauce was tangy but not overwhelming.
The meal ended to the tune of a vanilla panna cotta done up in a rich berry sauce sent out by the chef. Creamy and lighter than ever, this milky dessert was probably the only thing I could handle after all those small plates. Though absolutely stuffed, I still found it hard to put down the spoon.
Our wine choice for the evening was 2007 Le Cupole di Trinoro Rosso Toscano. It was fruity and well-balanced—a real delight.
Zucca Ristorante (Map It)
801 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017