Italian with zest and zeal

Zozo’s cheese tortellini with red pepper sauce is sprinkled with walnuts, Gorgonzola and green onions.

Zozo’s cheese tortellini with red pepper sauce is sprinkled with walnuts, Gorgonzola and green onions.

Photo By David Robert

Zozo’s Ristorante

3446 Lakeside Dr.
Reno, NV 89509

(775) 829-9449

Zozo’s Ristorante scores the highest points for The restaurant—excuse me, the “ristorante"—manages to perfectly balance hole-in-the-wall intimacy with classy elegance. It’s suited for casual family dining as well as more formal romantic evenings. I was there on a kind of, sort of “date” with my “friend” Danielle, and we had a nice quiet conversation, even though there were about four generations at the table next to us cheerily singing “Happy Birthday” to somebody.

This Lakeside Drive location was previously Pane Vino and before that, Coco Pazzo. It has been essentially the same restaurant through all three names—the changes were for copyright reasons. It’s been Zozo’s for a few years now, and I hope they stick with the name. I like it, largely because I’m rather fond of that zenith of the alphabet, the zed.

The service is very good: friendly and helpful (a bit on the slow side—but this isn’t the type of place you want to visit when you’re in a hurry). When I tried to say “Cabernet” and it accidentally came out “cabaret,” our waiter made some good-natured jokes about not doing any Liza Minelli dance numbers.

We wanted to share an appetizer dish, but because Danielle’s a vegetarian, our options appeared slim. When she asked our waiter for advice, he steered us away from the focaccia (the meal already comes with a bottomless basket of excellent garlic bread) and recommended the Parmesan herb polenta ($12.95) with mushrooms, artichoke hearts and tomatoes. It’s tangy and a little timid but quite good.

Our salads, with a delicious creamy Italian dressing, were superb. The build-up to the entrees was nearly excruciating because the service was so relaxed, the appetizer, bread and salad so appealing, and smells wafted over from nearby tables so tantalizingly. I felt a rush of genuine excitement when our waiter approached with the huge plates of food.

I had the veal a la Zozo’s ($18.95) with mushrooms, shallots and Madeira. It was good—a nice cut of meat accompanied by vegetables and mashed potatoes—but it seemed to lack some complexity. The sauce was essentially a mushroom gravy. Though very tasty, it had a strong mushroom pungency that overwhelmed the natural flavors of the veal. All the same, I was pleased.

Danielle had the cheese tortellini ($13.95), a dish with much more obvious complexity. The tortellini were colored with a red pepper puree, Gorgonzola, walnuts and green onions. Every bite was a little confusing but alluring—sort of like the pleasure of reading a good mystery novel.

Those are just some of the many pleasures to be had at Zozo’s, and we didn’t even have dessert. Next time I’m going to be sure to save room for tiramisu ($6). Zozo’s has a lot of good food and an even better atmosphere in which to enjoy it.