Italy in Ogden: South Ogden's new Zucca Trattoria is off to a fast start with rustic Italian fare. | Wine | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Italy in Ogden: South Ogden's new Zucca Trattoria is off to a fast start with rustic Italian fare. 

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Oh, you lucky Ogdenites! Judging from the crowds during three recent visits to South Ogden’s Zucca Trattoria, you’ve already started a love affair with this two-month-old Italian eatery. A Thursday lunch was hopping at Zucca, and I was heartened to see wine or beer on at least half of those lunchtime tables. At dinner on a Monday night, the joint was about half full, and on Friday … fuggedaboutit. The place was jammed to the rafters with crowds waiting patiently outside for dinner tables to open up.


So what’s happening in Ogden? Is this the newest Macaroni Grill or Olive Garden-style franchise? Hardly. Zucca Trattoria is the culmination of a lot of planning and dreaming on the part of owner/chef Elio Scanu, most recently executive chef at Snowbasin Resort. He’s also trained and worked in prestigious kitchens around the world like Galileo in Washington, D.C.; London’s Zafferano; Vivendo Restaurant at the St. Regis Hotel in Rome; and at his own restaurant, Intermezzo in Venezuela. Now, with Zucca, he’s back at a restaurant he owns.


I’ve been following Scanu’s work now for a few years, and while I’m not ready to call him anal, I will call him a perfectionist. He’s very deliberate, right down to his drawing sketches of new dishes before they appear on a menu, in order to help with the dish’s visual composition. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and is known as a rigorous, but fair boss. The biggest challenge facing Scanu at his new Ogden restaurant is finding service staff to match the lofty heights of his food and the restaurant’s quiet energy.


Not that the food at Zucca is overly complex or overwrought. Scanu just calls it “simple cooking.” Well, simple for him, maybe. I’m not sure there’s anything simple about the stellar monkfish “loins” in thyme-spiked Bordelaise sauce I enjoyed. The sauce was weighty enough to accommodate a luscious Serego Alighieri Possessioni Rosso from Valpolicella. But he insists that it was just a “quick, lightened Bordelaise pan sauce,” nothing most of us couldn’t do at home. OK, but to create one of Zucca’s authentic Napoli-style pizzas like the marvelous Margherita ($8.50) with perfectly charred crust bubbles, you’re going to have to import a 1,000 degree Valoriani wood-fired pizza oven from Italy—and then know what to do with it.


“People keep asking for fettuccine Alfredo and saying I don’t have a single ‘classical Italian’ dish on the menu,” laments the Italian-born Scanu. They come looking for lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken parmesan, but leave happy anyway, having discovered true rustic Italian flavors at Zucca. For Alfredo lovers (and who isn’t?), I direct you to the farfalle quattro formaggi ($9). It’s a big bowl (most everything except pizza at Zucca is served in huge white bowls) of al dente butterfly pasta bathed in an ultra-silky sauce made with heavy cream, butter, Fontina, Grana Padano, Gorgonzola and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses. My stepson, a stickler when it comes to cheesy sauces, declared this one the best he’d ever had, and I had to second the motion. The cheeses, cream and butter were perfectly balanced.


Meals at Zucca begin with a plate of irresistible garlic “bread” which is actually wood-oven pizza crust drizzled with fresh garlic and olive oil. A simple sliced meat appetizer ($12)—piatto d’affettati—consisted of tissue-thin slices of pancetta, mortadella, Molinari sopressata, prosciutto di Parma, grilled bread and marinated olives. Even with four people sharing, there was enough left over for sandwiches the next day. Veggie lovers will appreciate grigliata mista di verdure ($9), a platter of wood oven-roasted peppers, zucchini, oyster mushrooms and eggplant with garlic, olive oil and parsley.


The Zucca menu is organized in the Italian manner beginning with antipasti and insalate leading into pastas, risottos and then meat/fish/poultry selections called secondi. Finally, there’s dolci (dessert). Not quite so traditional are the portion sizes. They’re quite generous, challenging the diner to make it through a traditional Italian multi-course dinner of appetizer, salad, pasta or rice, entrée and dessert in one sitting. So prepare to share. It’ll probably happen spontaneously: The wife attacked my risotto al l’Abruzzese ($11) without remorse. Thankfully, there was plenty of the creamy risotto to share: Arborio rice cooked with San Marzano tomatoes, roasted peppers, Pecorino, basil and spicy house-made fennel-infused pork sausage. She was less eager to allow me near her tender Cornish game hen ($14), which was roasted with Italian herbs and a whole head of garlic, then served with garlic mashed potatoes and skinny green beans in a rich, natural sauce. I managed to steal a couple bites of that heavenly, rosemary-scented hen when she let her guard down and hit the powder room.


Foodwise, the only false note I found at Zucca was the fritto misto ($10): tender calamari rings and shrimp fried in an all-too-routine onion ring-style batter. Thankfully, the fritto misto was rescued by a side of tangy citrus, roasted garlic and basil aioli. And that appetizer was more than redeemed by dessert, specifically the out-of-this-world molten chocolate cake made with El Rey Bucare chocolate, and the equally divine white chocolate crème brulée.


Even as good as it is, there is still work to be done at this nascent trattoria. Servers lack depth of knowledge about many of the dishes served at Zucca and although friendly, some are overly familiar and intrusive, a trait I know would irk the formally trained Scanu. But there’s time to fix those things. What doesn’t need fixing is the cuisine, which in my opinion is already at the top of Ogden’s heap.



n1479 E. 5600 South, South Ogden, 801-475-7077, Lunch & Dinner, Monday-Saturday

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