Is it crazy that we went to Z’Abbracci and did NOT order pizza? I mean, I wanted to, I really did… but their menu had way too many other enticing options, so we went in a different direction, and now I can’t wait to go back and try their pizza… and parmesan puffs… and maybe also Brunch on a Saturday or Sunday. OK, I admit, I’m smitten!
The short version is: Z’Abbracci offers a lively atmosphere for families, friends, groups, and date; attentive, knowledgeable service in timely fashion; excellent tasting food — well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, amazingly flavorful; and about average value for this style of dining experience here in Castle Rock.
Now here’s the full monty for those who crave the details:
Z’Abbracci’s decor is simple and welcoming – reclaimed wood, farmhouse casual, with moderate noise level for a packed Saturday night. We were seated promptly in a booth near the kitchen. Personally, I love to sit near an open kitchen because it really gives you a sense of a restaurant’s true vibe when you get to see the staff in action during a busy service. This was one of the most zen kitchen staffs I’ve seen – everyone stayed focused on their work, moving at a fast clip but without appearing stressed, and were cordial to each other – no yelling, no egos, and the only drama were the occasional flames leaping from the grill. Our server was also super chill, very knowledgeable about the menu, and struck that sweet spot balance between being attentive but not annoying.
A restaurant’s atmosphere and service are all fine and good, but let’s face it – it’s really about the FOOD and the FLAVORS and this is where Z’Abbracci’s really shines. We started with a couple apps: risotto bites (arancini) and fried artichoke quarters with a yummy lemon aioli for dipping. Those were some of the best arancini I’ve had… and I’m half Italian and grew up in New Orleans, so the bar is set pretty dang high. The arancini were fried perfectly with crispy outside and creamy amazing inside, and this app is the perfect portion size to share.
Next up I ordered the Antipasto salad and added blackened shrimp – I know, it’s kinda weird to add shrimp to a chopped Italian salad, but I’m so glad I went for it – those shrimp were bursting with flavor and expertly cooked. Be advised, the full sized salad is huge – I took half of it home (after I ate all the shrimp, of course!)
The hubby ordered the chicken parmesan with linguine and marinara – the chicken was super moist, the sauce was amazing and the pasta was perfectly al dente. They have a nice wine menu, and he ordered a pinot noir that made him quite happy.
I don’t often order dessert in a restaurant, but since I am Italian, I couldn’t pass up cannoli. If you’ve ever had authentic cannoli, you know they are NEVER meant to be stuffed ahead of time, as the ricotta filling makes the shell soft, flaccid, and (frankly) disgusting. I checked with our server before I ordered and she assured me their cannoli were always stuffed to order, so I figured I’d give it a shot, and those cannoli did not disappoint! The shells are dipped in chocolate, so they stay extra crispy and perfect, and yes, they were filled to order with a creamy espresso ricotta and served alongside two scoops of gelato. The only thing that would have made this dish better was pistachio gelato (they only have vanilla and chocolate) but when I mentioned that to our server, she explained that they avoid nuts as much as possible since so many individuals are allergic.
Be forewarned – the desserts are huge! You could easily order 2 desserts to share amongst a table of 4-5 people and everyone would have plenty. My husband was torn between NY cheesecake and tiramisu but ultimately went with the tiramisu. I personally prefer a higher ratio of ladyfingers to mascarpone whip, but it’s fair to say I’m nitpicking here because the espresso flavor was strong and satisfying and I may or may not have had as many bites as my darling husband was willing to spare. The whole thing arrives drizzled in gorgeous chocolate and it’s about the size of a paving brick so either plan on sharing or taking some home for later.
The entire meal was Instagram-worthy and I know we will be back to enjoy this local gem again and again.
Z’abbracci’s Website: https://www.zabbracci.com/