Zeb in Florence
A repeat from last year's Florence trip and only because Cousin Vince and I talk about it whenever we hear anyone is going to Florence, Zeb Gastronomia is run by a mother and her son at the base of Piazza Michealangelo on the other side of the Arno.
First up, pasta. Spaghetti with shaved truffles is all about simplicity. It's all about fragrance and depth of flavors. Pasta noodles are al dente and you’ll be smelling like truffle for the next couple hours.
Tortellini with pumpkin and ricotta in a fonduta of French cheese and garnished with poppy seed. Big stuffed pasta! Flavors were good, with the tang of a stinky French cheese to round out the dish. The dish makes an impact on the plate.. It’s big and contrasting colors of yellow, white and black get people looking and since it tastes great, it’s a winner.
Rabbit stuffed with a GRIP of fennel seed, cheese and herbs (an outstanding dish of rabbit). No bones to mess with, just moist rabbit and stuffings. The outer skin was crisp texture. Flavors were deep and complimentary to the wine. I remember having rabbit in Siena back in 2009 that rivals this dish. Great flavor and I could probably do it with chicken breast, since people think eating Thumper (or Bambi for that matter) are creepy.
Dessert was tiramisu, not overpowering with coffee, liquor or sweetness. I don't know if this would sell well in American restaurants as it lacked the over the top nature of an American style tiramisu (you know, the "welcome to flavor town” American style). That said, I liked it. As the pasta and rabbit were incredibly savory, even a touch of sweetness is welcome at the end of the meal.
I haven't a clue what wines were served, as I knew better from last year that if I asked to take a picture of anything, I'd be scolded. Suffice it to say, the wines paired with each course and white and red were served.
Zeb still gets top marks for great food in a casual environment. Remember, Italians tend to eat at about 1:30, so get to Zeb when it opens as they don’t take reservations.
A return to the first restaurant I ate in Parma in 2016, Osteria dello Zingaro, and a repeat of what I ate last year, a plate of cured meat, pasta and a trio of horse meat (so I won't take up space with pictures). The meal was wonderful and the owner and his son were just as they were last year, proud of their food and their restaurant.
I could simply re-post the exact same blog post from last year. Everything was exactly the same and I still think the cavallo tartare with picante is a delicious version of steak tartare. However there is one addition, a sausage risotto that was lovely.
I'll say, it was pretty cool to be greeted with a smile, handshake and "welcome back" when I walked into Punto Officina del Gusto after almost one year to the day of my first visit.
I was so impressed with the food and wine program at Punto last season, I was really looking forward to coming back. Since last year, Punto has opened their apertivo bar next door, however, this dinner was in the main restaurant.
Amuse of radicchio with tartar sauce. I didn't know what to think about this combination as in all my travels, it had never come up before. Perhaps a play on a veggie bowl with a ranch dip or onion dip. Tack it up to whimsy.
Artichoke with quinoa and coffee infused mayonnaise. Last year, I also ordered an artichoke for my first course and loved the result, this year in no different. Wonderful presentation, well prepared and fun. The quinoa add dimension and texture.
Risotto with tangerine, olive oil, Parmigiano and ponzu. Again, I repeated my risotto order from last year with the latest incarnation, tangerine risotto. The innovation here is the use of ponzu, not a typical Italian ingredient. The tangerine is not dominant, like the celery last year, I found the risotto balanced, delicate, and flavorful and a good pairing with the Pinot. Stronger flavors, bacon, beef, even poached fish would overpower the risotto. This risotto is a solo act IF you want subtle flavors, If you'd rather have this risotto in the background, I think it would pair with fish, game, or beef rather well.
Spaghetti with squid ragu and chili. Well constructed, good heat from the chili and the pasta. had good tooth on it. This dish almost seems tame for Punto. I have no complaints and would happily order it again, but perhaps I expected a 'spin' on the dish, an innovation that Punto does so well; taking tradition and offering an update.
Desserts were a lemon cream and meringue on sweet cracker and the cake of the day, beet juiced soaked with cream and chocolate. Both were welcome sweet treats after a savory meal.
I was pleased to return to Zeb, Zingaro and Punto and would happily return to all three again.