Review: ZAZA Gastrobar Arrives in Stamford

ZAZA offers Italian-inspired small plates, an expansive wine list and brick oven pizza.

Stamford has seen a spate of restaurant openings as of late. The newest to hit the streets is also one which was highly anticipated. is a feast for the senses.

ZAZA had a strong opening right out of the gate when it opened its doors on June 2 and it’s no wonder why. Restaurateurs Nick Racanelli Sr. and Jr. have a winning formula with their restaurant in Fairfield. At ZAZA, they’re staying true to the gastrobar theme, but with an edge.

 “ZAZA is a bar with a great kitchen attached as opposed to a restaurant with a bar attached to it,” Nick, Jr. said.

The look of ZAZA is neat and clean without being sterile and a crimson hue is seen throughout the room. It’s sexy without flaunting it. With large, roomy red leather booths, round red leather bar stools that have a throwback look and feel, a marble topped bar, sparkling chandeliers, a wall projection situated over the entrance to the kitchen — showing The Cooking Channel on my last two visits — and oversized black and white wall photographs, the interior is small without feeling confined, yet large enough to accommodate 75 comfortably. The front outside terrace can seat an additional 10 people, while the back patio can make room for 40 diners.

However, the real reason people will flock to ZAZA is for the food. Brick oven Napoletana or New York style pizza, 10 different varieties of mozzarella, pasta, panini sandwiches, classic Italian dishes, salads and a bounty of tapas make up the large and wide-ranging menu.

Thin crust pizza lovers will especially delight in the super thin variety, which is hand stretched almost to the point of breaking. Particularly enticing are the white cheese pizzas, including the Pizza Bianca ($10.50). For those needing to fill their leafy green vegetables fix, the Arugula di Parma ($13.50) with arugula, prosciutto, tomatoes and balsamic vinaigrette is an excellent choice.

The Italian Tapas Small Plates menu items are great shareable selections with 27 to choose from. There are Italian staples such as Meatballs with fresh tomato sauce ($8.50), Calamari Fritti ($9) and Osso Bucco with vegetable ragu sauce ($10).

Sure to be a crowd favorite is the Creamy Lobster Polenta with roasted roman tomatoes and creamy mozzarella ($12). This dish had a stirring aroma and surprisingly large chunks of sweet lobster meat throughout and the creamy texture was appealing to the palate.

Another small plate that was big on flavor was the Eggplant Rollatini with ricotta cheese, roasted red peppers and asparagus ($9). This savory dish was firm on the outside and yielded to the fork on the inside.

A dish that ZAZA would be remiss if they didn’t keep it in heavy rotation on the menu is the Potato Gnocchi in butternut squash cream sauce ($9). The first bite leads you to the sweetness of the butternut squash and the creamy deliciousness brings up the rear in fine form.

For those with heartier appetites, the panini, pastas, salads and classic Italian entrées come in lunch or dinner sized portions. The menu is extensive, but not overwhelmingly so. But what is a good Italian meal without vino? ZAZA serves wines by the glass ($5-$15) and the bottle ($18-$128, with the majority falling into the affordable range). From dry to sweet, white to red, Napa Valley Chardonnay to Tuscany Sangiovese, the choices are as diverse as the flavors.

ZAZA Italian Gastrobar hit the ground running. They arrived in Stamford with a reputation that preceded them, which only made the anticipation of their opening that much greater. With a menu that is desirable on practically any budget, an inviting décor that lacks pretension, an amiable and courteous staff and cuisine that pleases the senses, ZAZA is unquestionably worthy of a visit or two. And then some.

122 Broad Street
Stamford, CT 06901


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