Zero Otto Nove: Italian Escape in the Bronx

By Emma Fingleton

There is no wrong choice of entree at Zero — any meal is sure to be delicious, unique and authentic (Courtesy of Emma Fingleton).

Arthur Avenue is chockablock with pastry shops selling rainbow cookies and cannolis and Italian restaurants dishing up spaghetti and chicken parm, but for a culinary experience that leans more Italian than Italian-American, look for the little blue car on the sidewalk and maroon awning emblazoned with Zero Otto Nove’s logo.

Follow the hostess down the narrow alley-like hallway and enter into the airy, stone walled dining room, where the natural light filtering in through the skylight gives you the illusion that you have stumbled into a rustic trattoria in the Italian countryside. Heavy wood furniture, little alcoves with a small upstairs dining area and the tiled wood burning pizza oven all add character and coziness to this little pocket of Italy.

As soon as you pull up your chair, the bread basket will be dropped on your table. Filled with crusty, fluffy bread and strips of golden focaccia, the bread is heavenly by itself, and even better with the olive oil on the table. Maybe it’s because I am addicted to carbs, but I can always demolish the bread basket easily, so proceed with caution, especially if you want to order a filling entree. Then again, I never listen to my own advice regarding bread consumption.

You may want to save room for an appetizer, such as the aesthetically pleasing antipasto freddo, a board with an array of Italian cheeses and cured meats, or the lighter goat cheese and pear salad. Once, I ordered the Antipasto Salernitano Caldo on a whim and it was an unexpected favorite. Stuffed peppers, roasted eggplant and cauliflower may sound boring, but this antipasto platter featured many interesting and delicious flavors and textures.

I cannot recommend the Salerno-style pizzas enough, whether you opt for classic Margherita with fresh mozzarella from Casa della Mozzarella down the street or my two favorites, the La Riccarda, where sweet butternut squash puree meets salty pancetta and smoked mozzarella, or the San Matteo, which is strewn with sweet Italian sausage and broccoli rabe. The thin crusts are burnished from the coal ovens in the center of the restaurant and have a near perfect ratio of toppings to crust.

The primi section of the menu is filled with unique and delicious pasta options. The malfalde e ceci features long, curly ribbons of pasta garnished with breadcrumbs and shaved pecorino, tossed with chickpeas and pancetta. The equally delicious pasta al forno is an upgraded baked ziti, where mini meatballs and cubes of soppressata are baked with rigatoni, mozzarella and ricotta for a savory and hearty pasta dish.

However, if the specials include a pasta baked in tinfoil, throw whatever you were planning on ordering out the window and just go with whatever it is. The waiter will unfold the parcel and tumbles of steaming spiral-shaped pasta will fall onto the serving plate, tossed with anything from burrata and pesto to spicy diavolo sauce to crumbled sausage and broccolini. It is guaranteed to taste amazing, and the presentation doesn’t hurt either.

The secondi category of the menu is full of meat and fish entrees, from typical options like steak and shrimp sauteed with vegetables, to more unusual rabbit stews and Cornish hen. The chicken capricciosa is presented as a massive golden chicken cutlet topped with chopped mozzarella, tomatoes and pesto. It’s as delicious as it is oversized. The chicken boscaiola combines juicy bone-in chicken with peppers, mushrooms, potatoes and rosemary in a flavorful, spicy sauce. If you are lucky, the short ribs will be a special; they are braised perfectly until they are falling apart.

I do not want to forget to mention the high-quality service either. Drinks are constantly refilled, finished dishes are whisked away and the waiters are patient and offer good recommendations if needed. I am always impressed that they can remember the long list of complex specials, too.

If you are able to squeeze in dessert, the Nutella pizza and the tiramisu are both excellent choices to end your meal on a sweet note. The foam-topped cappuccinos are also worth ordering if you appreciate espresso.

Zero Otto Nove is perfect for either a leisurely lunch or dinner, and the menu is reasonably priced considering the high quality ingredients and the obvious care put into preparing and plating each dish. Plus, your parents will love it too, so invite them to come visit you for quality time and quality food.


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