Dinner at Zaza’s, Ithaca, NY

This was where we had dinner on our last night in Ithaca. I didn’t get to try as many restaurants as I’d originally planned to because I was staying with some wonderful people who don’t normally eat out that often and I wanted to cook with/eat with them.

I’ve always been a fan of Zaza’s, even when I was a freshman and I went there for birthday dinners with Amrita. It’s also not too out of the way, and given I didn’t have that much time left in Ithaca with my Ithaca mum, I didn’t want to make the trek out to John Thomas (despite how much I miss their German fried mushroom caps and lobster bisque).

Zaza’s used to be run by my Italian professoressa at Cornell. I’m not sure if she’s still there because I hardly see her around, but she was one of my favourite teachers at Cornell and she’s the one who taught us the rather sadistic song “Si fosse foco” to introduce us to the subjunctive and to Italian dialects.

Zaza’s does this really nice home made pesto, both with basil and sundried tomatoes. I think the key is to use very good olive oil and parmesan.

We started with the breaded mozzarella, which is served with a sweet balsamic reduction and a tub of marinara sauce. They’re just like mozzarella sticks, but in puck form.

This is probably where I first started eating buffalo mozzarella which made me interested in other white Italian cheeses like burrata. After deep frying, the mozzarella pucks are extremely melty on the inside and pretty good with the marinara sauce.

L ordered the porcini ravioli in a walnut cream sauce. The sauce was pretty nutty but in a savoury way, and the ravioli was perfectly al dente. I thought the porcini taste could be a little stronger though.

I had my typical lobster risotto [$22]. It’s a lot larger than I remembered! And perhaps a little less creamy. Still, an extremely good risotto that lives up to its memory in my head. The lobster chunks in it were tender (there was an entire claw) and permeated the risotto sauce.

Again, no space for desserts. We didn’t really want to pack back any leftovers as we were leaving the next morning and it seems a little rude to leave leftovers in someone’s house. Perhaps we should have packed the tiramisu for Chris.

I remember really liking their mushroom pizza appetizer. If I had more time in Ithaca I would probably want to try their clams and their prosciutto and melon starter. The Saltimbocca has since been removed from the menu – pity!


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