Zino Ristorante was built for a full house. The lively, open room just seems happier and happier with each new table full of diners. It could be the grandiose staircase, the tiled floor, the vintage posters or the upbeat bar — but really it comes down to the hospitality that oozes from general manager and co-owner Giuseppe Bosco and his staff. His mission seems to be to eradicate hunger and loneliness by providing a warm room where people can sit, enjoy one another’s company, eat delicious food, drink beautiful wines and banter with the staff.
“When this room is full of people and everyone is running around, it’s full of positive energy,” Bosco said. “The heart of Zino is creating good food from fresh, simple ingredients.”
And that’s where executive chef Nick Haley comes in. Giuseppe was born in Italy, but Haley has an Italian soul. He certainly seems to coax the best and brightest out of his ingredients, just like any good nonna. He’s one to trust his instincts and commit to good ideas.
“We consider ourselves a contemporary Italian restaurant, so we can get outside of the boundaries,” Haley said.
What he means is, he likes to play. Take the raviolo, which is the singular form of ravioli. You get one, because you only need one. But what a one it is. Stuffed with house-made ricotta, there is a gorgeous hen’s egg smack in the middle. Slice open the pasta with your fork and the yolk oozes out, coating the truffle “caviar.” Embellished with brown butter, it’s about as sexy as pasta gets.
Both Bosco and Haley are fans of the capra, seared goat cheese topped with lentils, greens and a Mediterranean-style eggplant puree that begs for bread. Those wanting something lighter should try the spinach salad, or even split one of the pizzas.
As for entrees, it’s hard to narrow down the very tasty list. The cioppino is classic, the broth swimming with shellfish. Bosco will steer you toward the Branzino, a European sea bass served whole and tossed with a lemony caper butter. The fish is downright creamy — its white flesh seems to melt in the mouth. “It’s rustic,” explains Haley. “You don’t have to do a lot to showcase the product.” (Though that’s because they buy such good products to begin with.)
Haley is currently smitten with the beet and goat cheese ravioli, topped with grilled artichokes. The bright pink of the beets is part of the dish’s mystique, which is both earthy and sweet.
“I’m not intimidated by doing really traditional dishes, but sometimes it’s nice to be able to step outside of the box,” Haley said.
And that’s exactly what both he and Bosco do. Seamlessly.