Zaza

Best Part: The saucy sauce

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This week Mr Midweek lunch and I decided to go Italian.

 

Now, we have an awful lot of Italian restaurants in St Albans so to stand out they need to be either great value, great quality or run by lovely people. It is possible to be all three, see our reviews of Smokehouse Deli and La Cosa Nostra. I am not mad about chains unless I am eating out with children, in which case their corporate mini menus and crayon packs are much appreciated. Therefore cutting out Zizzis, Pizza Express, Jamie’s, Prezzo and Carluccios we were left with not very much. What does this say about us in St Albans? We believe ourselves to be well educated and discerning in our food appreciation and a great deal of the residents are of Italian descent just itching to prepare pizza as it should be. What a shame that the rents in our city are so high that good honest independent family businesses struggle against the big chains. Rant over. Actually I rather like Carluccios.

 

We would have chosen L’taliana on French row had I not had a (gorgeous) lunch there with a lady friend the previous week. Had I eaten with Mr Midweek Lunch and been able to review it, it would have scored highly. This time we decided against Verdis or Kamillos. This is nothing personal, and nothing to do with them being in renovated public toilets but more because we were in the very centre of town and on a limited time budget. We didn’t chose the new Italian on Holywell Hill because we are still in mourning over the loss of Singhli, formally on the site. What did that leave us with? Zaza, formally Sazios which is a hidden treasure down a long corridor between Cote and a tailor. I like Zazas for many reasons. Firstly because it probably annoys Zizzis to have a similarly named and themed restaurant that isn’t overpriced and renown for slow service. We have been coming here for 10 years, back to the days when in its guise of Sazio diners were allowed a second pizza for free if they honestly had room after their first. Most didn’t but Mr Midweek Lunch saw this as a challenge to be embraced at each visit. These days they offer unlimited wine instead, but unfortunately only on Tuesday nights, so we did not partake this time.

In short, happy memories often bring us back. We are not the only ones. I have never seen the place empty even though it is easily missed from the outside.  And before you point it out, yes Zaza is a chain but it is a small and very localised one, so I’m going to forgive it.

DECOR

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It is fresh, airy and stylish inside.  A pleasing mix of wood, white and olive green accents. I think there was red too but this may have been the waitress’ bright trousers. I want a pair but Mr Midweek Lunch wasn’t sure. The toilets were fine but up a big staircase so not great in an emergency situation. Thankfully there wasn’t one.

THE MENU

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As well as some lovely looking specials, there is a good lunch set menu. Two courses for £6.90 or three for £9.90.  I chose the deep fried mushroom balls to start. They arrived quickly and were finished in a similar timeframe. Very tasty. I loved the creamy dip.

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Mr Midweek Lunch had Mezzaluna Croccante (little fried parcels of mozzarella, clearly he had not had enough fried cheese at our last meal). The menu claims that comes with a choice of chilli salsa or garlic mayonnaise, but no such choice was offered at ordering time and he ended up with the least preferable mayonnaise option. To be fair, he did not ask for the chilli salsa (bless him, he does tend to panic slightly at ordering time), so we shall say no more about it.

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For some reason I completely forgot that I had been dreaming of a pizza and chose a risotto for my main. Our children believe risotto to be the work of the devil so I thought I should seize the opportunity. Readers, I made a mistake. There was nothing wrong with the risotto other than it being arguably a bit too wet. I appreciated the hint of chilli. I just don’t think I chose it for the right reasons. It wasn’t what I felt like. The moral of this story is order what you want, not what you think you should have.

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Mr Midweek lunch was happy with the thing he ordered which wasn’t a cat. Rather, he decided on a big plate of pasta and meatballs, thus fulfilling his own stated dream of “a big pile of meat”. It was delightful. Although he is a fine creator of meatballs in his spare time there was something about the richness of the sauce they were provided with that was deeper than the thin plane of reality most tomato sauces exist upon, through the walls of our own dimension into a world of supremely fulfilling pasta, that put his amateur efforts to shame.

I usually drink Apple Juice but today went for Artisan Pear and Mango which made a nice change. It cost about the same as my husband’s beer, and did not get me tipsy.

THE SCORE

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The food and the price were good. The service up to the time we waited to catch someone’s eye to bring us the bill were also good. Someone explain to me why this happens in so many eateries? Service so prompt and polite that makes you consider leaving a really decent tip then when you are actually waiting for someone to catch your eye and bring you the folded piece of paper every server in the establishment disappears.   What is the deal with that? You would think the period immediately proceeding tip giving decisions they would be at their most attentive. at Zazas they almost redeemed themselves with some after-dinner mints. However to compare it overall to La Cosa Nostra I have to score it lower. It didn’t seem quite as authentic. I admit I chose badly and that is my fault, not theirs. Taking this and my husband’s meal into account therefore we must be lenient and award a

7.4/10

http://www.zaza.co.uk/restaurants/st-albans

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