I rarely order pasta when out for dinner because I often feel like it is a dish I could easily recreate at home. But the pasta served at Zucca is definitely not one of those dishes I could make myself on the fly.
Even on a Tuesday evening, this classy joint at 2150 Yonge Street is booked solid until closing time at 10:00 PM — and the reason is surely its handmade pasta and courteous servers.
Seated in a cozy booth with pillows and a cushiony seat, I found the atmosphere of this place romantic but still casual. It is easy to relax in this dimly lit, deep orange-coloured room. The tables hugging the wall opposite this corner spot were filled with middle-aged couples enjoying wine and, presumably, the prix fixe deal ($28) available Sunday through Tuesday.
The servers are well versed in the extensive specials available, and we were brightly greeted and then helped by two male servers throughout the meal, the first of whom was seemingly fluent in Italian while the second, a younger man, was quick to provide good suggestions.
The prix fixe for the evening entitles you to a house salad, a choice of any of Zucca's handmade pastas, and a dessert.
For vegetarians, there are a couple choices, but our younger server hinted that he could convince the kitchen to make a dish vegetarian if needed. Starting with the house salad, the meal slowly staggered across its courses. The scorza di fagiolini alle fave fresche e guanciale ("bean pod" semolina noodles, fresh fava beans, crispy local guanciale, wild leek greens, and house-made ricotta salata) was fresh, and the bean flavour very evident, while the spoia lorda con salsa di noci e scorzone (flat ravioli, monforte fresco and ricotta, toasted walnut sauce, sage, and summer truffles) was very rich and, despite its small portion size, just filling enough.
The dinner service was drawn out over a couple hours, which is fine, as you wouldn't want to indulge all at once, but you should be prepared to spend some time at Zucca.
The dessert menu offered an array of choices, but the gelati e sorbetti (three scoops of gelato with a small cookie) and the torta caprese won out. We chose the milk chocolate and dark chocolate gelato, with a final scoop of raspberry sorbet. All three were creamy, light, and delicious. The only disappointment, perhaps, was the lingue di gatto cookie, which was essentially a light wafer. Nonetheless, the gelato was more than enough to enjoy. The torta caprese was a bittersweet dark chocolate and almond torta and a chocolate cannolo filled with honeyed ricotta, served with raspberries. The real star of this dessert was the ricotta. The torta itself was primarily chocolate, but it was accompanied by an almond sauce and a few raspberries more for presentation than taste. The plate was still very good, but the cannolo was undoubtedly the best feature, causing the rest of the plate to fall flat in comparison.
Considering a meal for two would normally be $100 here without beverages, the dining experience at Zucca was more than pleasant, with a great prix fixe price, high-quality food, and attentive service.
Title photo by: star5112