Conveniently located across the street from the North Glen Metra station, Zingarella is easy to get to, but don’t look for them in the main part of “The Glen,” they’re on Lehigh, not Patriot.
Though the interior is reminiscent of a strip mall restaurant—big windows onto the street and perfunctory décor—the food warms up the room.
Specials seem to be a strong point of Chef Armando Esquivel, with substantial choice offered each day. The regular menu is comprehensive, providing many salads, sandwiches and entrees to tempt you, all at reasonable prices. It runs the gamut from New Orleans to Italy to the South of France.
Starters we enjoyed included the Italian Wedding Soup ($4.99), with a savory, full-flavored broth, tasty mini meatballs and tender orzo; and the Fried Green Tomatoes ($7.99), a special appetizer with farmers’ market tomatoes drizzled with a ranch-like dressing and served with a dollop of mixed green. Once sprinkled with salt, the flavors really popped.
Salads were solid options. The Caesar Salad ($6.99) was fine, but it is a super-cheesy version with plenty of shredded Parmesan and is served in a cup-shaped Parmesan crisp. We really enjoyed the Ruby Red Salad ($6.99), mixed greens with roasted red and gold beets, ruby grapefruit, red cabbage, red onion and goat cheese, all tossed in a Champagne-Mango vinaigrette. There’s a lot at work here, but it pulled together beautifully.
The dressing on the Roquefort and Roasted Pear Salad ($6.99) was billed as Vanilla-Hazelnut vinaigrette, but all I could taste was balsamic. I found this salad overly sweet.
I’ve been back and forth to New Orleans a lot this past year, so I feel quite qualified to say that the Muffaletta ($8.99) at Zingarella is one of the best ever. The sesame bread is house made, and it is terrific. I appreciated the addition of mozzarella cheese to the standard provolone, and the olive salad was the real deal.
Chicken and Spinach Crepes with Tomato Mascarpone Cream Sauce ($9.99) sported moist and tender chicken and lots of veggies, but the sauce was drizzled over the top, and there wasn’t enough of it. Better to have the sauce inside and out; what there was, we enjoyed.
The Chicken Pot Pie ($11.99) was comically enormous, but warm and comforting, with a light-as-air puff pastry lid. A Bouillabaisse special ($18.99) was chock-full of fresh salmon, mussels, shrimp and halibut; the stock was a bit too salty, but the portion was very generous.
Chicken Maravatio ($17.99) – prosciutto- wrapped chicken breast stuffed with spinach, chorizo, mushrooms and Manchego cheese, served with a creamy tomato sauce – was accompanied by the fluffiest polenta I’ve ever had. I’m guessing whipped egg whites were folded in, but our server wasn’t able to get the definitive secret ingredient from the super-busy chef.
Desserts are made on-premise, and the individual Apple Tart ($5.95) was a keeper, especially topped with a scoop of rich vanilla gelato. The Chocolate Lava Cake ($5.95) missed the memo on proper oozing, but was full of deep flavor. The portion of Carrot Cake can only be described as frightening; for $7.95 you get 1/8 of an entire cake. The couple at the next table attempted to scale it; they ended up taking most of it home.
Nicely full at a lunchtime visit, the outing was marred by inattentive service. The server was swamped trying to handle the whole room alone, and it was fairly busy. The service was far better at a recent dinner visit, when our excellent server was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the menu, and always appeared when needed, without hovering.
Check out Zingarella next time you’re in the Glen; it’s worth a stop. And don’t miss that muffaletta; it’s a thing of beauty.