Where Locals Go

Zeppole

Review by Frank Geslani  |  Photos by Lorraine Haan-Stewart

Zeppole bills itself as a coastal Italian restaurant. Its executive chef, Sascia Marchesi, hails from Milan, an industrial city in the heart of Northern Italy. Marchesi points out that Milan is one of Italyâs biggest seafood consumers. His fritto misto, easily the best Iâve had in some time, seems to prove it. Itâs much more than the hackneyed âfried calamariâ that appears on most menus. It arrives in a playful parchment boat (a nod to the Italian custom of serving fritto misto in paper cones) perfectly seasoned, with plenty of squid tentacles (just the way that I like it) and other fried delights: shrimp, zucchini, bell peppers, green apple and sage.

Marchesi started cooking in his parentsâ two-Michelin-starred restaurant as a teenager. Heâs stateside now, but his cooking showcases the confidence of someone whoâs been in the family business for three decades. His connection to the culinary motherland comes through even in dishes familiar to the American vernacular.

Take the ubiquitous crostini, for example. Zeppoleâs version celebrates the simple tartness of Roma tomato, which is heightened by the sweet funk of garlic, the gentle bitterness of microgreens, and the sharp, umami pop of pecorino cheese. They do beautiful things with vegetables. Their baby spinach salad effectively blends textures: creamy goat cheese, crispy bits of speck ham, candied pecans, and cool cubes of watermelon.

Naturally, thereâs pasta. Marchesi recently acquired an impressive pasta machine. (Watching it churn out oodles of noodles in their open kitchen is a fun diversion.) The freshness of this pasta really comes through in two dishes. Corkscrews of cavatappi luxuriate in mascarpone, white wine garlic sauce, plump roasted shrimp, arugula, and sundried tomato. Ravioli âOssobucoâ is pure comfort. Sheets of spot-on al dente pasta swaddle a robust filling of shredded veal. Theyâre then christened in a silky veal reduction and finished with the welcome crackle of fried sage.

Seafood dishes lived up to the restaurantâs coastal Italian aspirations. Roasted Chilean sea bass is a typical New World stand-in for Mediterranean branzino, and its plump, moist, mild and flaky flesh is a crowd-pleaser. Marchesi again opts for simplicity, highlighting the beautifully pan-seared filet with a clean white wine butter sauce and the gentle starchiness of roasted root vegetables. Their cioppino, the famous Tuscan fish stew, is more robust. Itâs loaded with sea bass, swordfish, shrimp, calamari, clams and mussels swimming in an intoxicating broth. The terrestrial portion of the menu is anchored by a fall-off-the-bone pork (page 74) âossobuco,â abounding in slow-cooked tenderness and comfort. Grilled lamb chops also dazzle with a grappa and fig reduction that trumpet the approach of autumn.

To finish, go with the restaurantâs namesake, zeppole, elevated donut holes presented tableside. Your server shakes them up in a bag with cinnamon sugar, diffusing their mouthwatering aroma as they tumble onto the plate. Theyâre served with a chocolate dipping sauce and they pair perfectly with an espresso.

Northeast Tarrant County has a healthy roster of Italian restaurants, and Zeppole ought to be on everyoneâs short list as one of the finest. The colder months could be the ideal time to discover Zeppole as Marchesi rolls out his fall/winter menu. The restaurant, already accustomed to large banquets from the Gaylord Texanâs convention crowd, are accustomed to celebratory dinners and special occasions. But why should conventioneers, staycationers or âIceâ enthusiasts have all the fun?

Inside Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center  |  1501 Gaylord Trail  |  Grapevine 76051  |  (817) 778-1000