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Dinner at Zio: 'If it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain...'

*NOTE: This restaurant has since closed.*

  • Restaurant  Zio
  • Cuisine  Italian
  • Location  17 W. 19th St. Street (between 5th & 6th Avenues), Manhattan 
  • Phone  212-352-1700
  • Directions  Hopstop
  • Atmosphere  spacious, modern, sleek - clean - sophisticated
  • Attire  business casual
  • Ideal for  small and large groups, 1x1, bar, private events
  • Price  moderate to expensive

"If it's good enough for Anthony Bourdain and his wife, then it's good enough for us," I exclaimed, after greeting Megan and Hung for our Saturday evening dinner date at Zio.  After all, it was this particular factoid that this 'new Flatiron Italian' was even in the running (along with about three other restaurants that we had also considered).

For 8:30pm on a Saturday eve, Zio was approximately between 1/4-1/3 of the way full.  I was able to chalk this up to the restaurant's very young life on the Flatiron neighborhood's dining landscape.  Slower evening aside, I was instantly warmed by the genuine care and service we received from the hostess upon our arrival, in addition to a couple of the other employees that we had first encountered. 

I had a good feeling about this place...

Photo (John Lei): Zio's dining roomWe were seated in the far back corner of the grand dining room, which granted us unobstructed views of the entire space.  Overall, think: clean, sophisticated lines and an understated elegance - honey, oat, and walnut color hues - leather banquette and table/chair seating - 20+ feet ceiling heights - dimmed modern lighting.

The meal was kicked off with a basket of sliced, freshly baked Italian Bread - crunchy, hand-rolled, herb-specked breadsticks - and a shallow dish filled with 'red pesto (pesto rosso),' for dipping and dunking.

The three of perused the dinner menu, all the while nursing our glasses of wine.  Finally, we came to a decision: split three appetizers amongst the table and order individual entrees.


Melanzane  Floating atop a shallow moat of warm marinara sauce was a castle, if you will, constructed of interchanging layers of lightly breaded strips of eggplant and gooey, smoked mozzarella cheese.   Spicy arugula greens crowned the top of the dish.

Riso Al Salto Con L'osso  Arborio rice, cooked to a precise 'al dente' - cooled - and then hand-formed in to the shape of a hockey puck, was encased by a Rolex-gold crust and served atop a tangy (lemon), herbaceous (parsley), and salty (beef stock, capers(?)) gremolata sauce.  Visually, what stole the show was the centerpiece of the dish: approximately 4-inches of beef bone that was sliced across the top, exposing a bountiful pool of gelatinous marrow.

Personally, I found the bone overwhelming, in terms of its size.

Lamb Meatballs (one of the appetizer 'specials' of the evening)  Meatballs.  The word, alone, makes my stomach growl...in a good way. 

Visually, this order of four perfectly plump, golf ball-sized balls was the picture of meatball perfection: enveloped in the house marinara sauce - finished with cheese - and topped with a sprig of something green, just enough of a burst of color to bring about a contrast.  Unfortunately, however, the balls were overcooked.  Like, to the point that, what should have been delicate, pink lamb meat, was 'McDonald's hamburger patty' grey.  Bummer. 


Pappardelle  Ribbons of saffron pappardelle noodles were gently tossed with brisket-like shreds and chunks of the most tender, gristle-free lamb.  The meat was braised in a tomato-based sauce which, while still pleasant and flavorful, did not compete or overpower its star component.



Aside from the overcooked lamb meatballs, I thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my meal at Zio.  From the sexy and sophisticated atmosphere, mature cocktail and wine lists, excellent service and, most importantly, the meal, I hope that others will also find that Zio has all of the ingredients necessary to make a long-standing home for itself in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan.


Until we eat again,

The Lunch Belle

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