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Restaurants & Bars 12

Po Delta, east of Ferrara

allende | Mar 10, 201407:21 AM

Last June, we went to La Zanzara (near Volano and Codigoro, very close to The Adriatic) for the first time. It was a wonderful dinner. I wrote about it here:

We went back for dinner on Saturday evening and then lunch on Sunday. As good as it was last year, it was even better this time.

The Bison family gets it. They use the freshest ingredients, cook the ingredients exquisitely, bring out the intensity of flavors from the ingredients, combine textures, plate the dishes pleasingly but not fussily… and serve. What comes out of the kitchen at La Zanzara is just about perfect, at least from our now having sampled many dishes. What more could one ask of a (mainly) fish and seafood restaurant in a simply beautiful setting... both the physical setting of the interior and the fascinating surrounding area of the marshlands. Well, you could ask for warm knowlegeable people and the Bison family has it in spades.

One son, Samuele, handles the dining rooms. Another son, Sauro is in the kitchen with his father and mother. What they cook is ethereal from the antipasti through the desserts.

It’s hard to describe how pleasant the physical layout of the dining room is. Soft colors, comfortable chairs, well spaced tables (but not too far apart), a fire in the huge fireplace, soft jazz in the background; every so often, you hear the ducks quacking in the lagoons outside. If one wanted to construct the nearly perfect dining room physical setting, this would be it! All in a house surrounded by lagoons.

Samuele knows his food and really knows his wine. He personally knows many of the producers on his list because they’ve been to the restaurant. The restaurant was full both times (two different rooms seating a total of about 30), but it was obvious that he knew how to make time for each table, to chat up many regulars (more than half the tables) and explain both the food and wine to those who were there for the first time. He reminds me of my friend Antonio Santini at Dal Pescatore, 30 years ago. The service, with Samuele’s sister in charge, is flawless, but very relaxed and unobtrusive; nothing stiff or formal. One feels very comfortable in that dining room.

And did I mention that Samuele is passionate about wine!? Nine out of ten people are going to drink a white, but for those who want a glass of red, he’ll open two or three bottles during the meal (as he did on Saturday evening) that appeal to him and that he hopes will appeal to you (if not, just ask for something else and he will gladly oblige). On Saturday, he opened a magnum (perhaps two) of 2008 Ca dei Frati Ronchedone; a 2006 Storchi Neroduva; and a 2006 Teran ( I forget the producer) from the border of Friuli and Slovenia. These are wines we never would have tried and while they weren’t Barolo,Brunello or Barbera, they were very good. For a white we drank the 2011 Muller-Thurgau Sofi from Franz Haas. To finish off lunch, we drank the Vaca Mora amaro from Poli.

For dinner, we both had the risotto di caccia di Valle con salsa noce moscata: meat from four different ducks (folaga, germano reale, mestolone, alzavola). The risotto was made from scratch and the meat was wonderfully gamey. The dish was perfectly cooked. Then Piovra (octopus) allo spiedo con erbe; as tender and as flavorful as when we had it in June. On Sunday, agnolotti ripieni di pesce bianco; pasta fresca con le canocchie; anguilla di cattura cotta alle brace; misto di pesci cotti alla brace. Dolci included: schiacciata di ricotta di pecora alla casalinga e salsa di mele; bigne caramellati con salsa mandarino; morbido tepido al cioccolato fondente; millefoglie con salsa caramello.

The care and skill in everything from the pasta, to the saucing, to the grilling of the fish, to the desserts, show the hands of maestros in the kitchen (thank you Elio, Vittoria and Sauro).

In our mind, if you want one of the best meals you’ll ever have anywhere near the Adriatic, if you’re in Ferrara (45 minutes away), Ravenna (an hour) or Venice (an hour and a half), this is THE place to go.

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