In Italy, the words ristorante, trattoria or osteria have specific meanings. In America, we use them as if they all meant simply: restaurant. However, in Italy a ristorante is more up-market and formal. The term describes sophisticated, elegant dining establishments where bankers, politicians and movie stars eat. They feature expensive foods and deliver a decorous and etiquette-correct service.
In Tahoe City, we are fortunate enough that the talented folks at Zia Lina Ristorante deliver this experience with true Italian hospitality. Speaking of a talented staff, on the wine side, Zia’s boasts two Level 2 sommeliers. When it comes to food, take a look at the fresh ingredients and cooking skills on display in chef, sommelier and owner Suzanne Nguyen’s exhibition kitchen. Nguyen and her staff deliver both classic and cutting-edge Italian fare with not only a creative and artistic bent, but also with big doses of yummy and love.
“(Suzanne) Nguyen and her staff deliver both classic and cutting-edge
Italian fare with not only a creative and artistic bent,
but also with big doses of yummy and love.”
We put ourselves in the hands of Nguyen for both food and wine and she started us off with “cozze,” Italian for mussels. Ours were fresh and bathed in white wine, garlic, lemon and butter.
For vino, Nguyen suggested the 2014 La Carraia Orvieto, which was bursting with white flowers, limes and minerals that reflect its volcanic origins. This is a first-class shellfish wine and it swam perfectly with the mussels.
Zia’s features an authentic, wood-fired oven that creates pizzas with beautifully, crunchy, blistered crusts and infuses toppings with an inimitable smoky flavor. The Margherita version was a hit with the 2013 Terredora Rosé. Made from Aglianico grapes that are usually used for inky, gusty reds and also born from volcanic terroir, this rose delivers generous cherry, apricot and white-flower aromas and flavors, while offering enough smoky backbone to match the pizza note for note.
Next up was the Arancini de Risotto with goat and mozzarella chesses, spinach and sauce Arrabiata, matched with the 2010 La Spinetta Barbera D’Asti that burst from the glass with flavors of cassis and spicy Indian tea. This wine both pumped up and balanced the spicy and rich risotto.
We finished our repast with chicken parmesan nested on gluten-free linguini, bathed in marinara sauce. There is no better wine to complement classic Italian flavors than Amarone. Zenato’s 2008 version was full of dried black cherry, truffles and chocolate licorice that not only played beautifully with the dish, but the last drops were enjoyed as dessert in a glass.
For more information or for reservations, call (530) 581-0100 or visit zialinatahoe.com.
Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Advanced Sommelier and his consulting business wineprowest.com assists in the selling, buying and managing wine collections. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for more wine columns.