Zingara Café is an understated gem in High Street, Thornbury. It was recently closed for renovations over the Christmas period and reopened with a new, brighter interior space, a woodfire pizza oven and a gelato display freezer. While they made some exciting additions to the menu, thankfully they still serve up the much-loved, popular dishes that keep their customers returning time and time again. While I haven’t yet tried their gelato, I can say that their wood fire pizzas were delicious. Thin, crisp bases, loaded with a wonderful selection of traditional Italian toppings. Everyone’s favourite was the ‘Panna e Pancetta’, a cream base with Marscapone, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, Pancetta, Mushrooms and Sundried Cherry Tomatoes.
In addition to the woodfire pizza, I find it hard to go past my top three ‘must-have’ dishes which I highly recommend at Zingara:
I’m biased because I will always rate my own Nonna’s Arancini as the best every single time, however, these Arancini are one of the closest I have so far found to be up there with the best. The breadcrumb crust is fried perfectly, light and crispy and not greasy or thick, just enough to hold the rice ball together until you are ready to cut it open and make way for the oozing hot explosion of cheese and Bolognese risotto inside. The Arancini balls are served with an intense, rich Napoli or Bolognese sauce and flakes of Parmesan cheese to add an extra dose of the sharp tastes from this dish.
There is no stringy, chewy calamari here! Photos simply don’t do this dish justice, because despite my best attempts at tryign to make thiI can confidently say that Zingara serves up THE best calamari I have tasted in Melbourne so far. The strips of marinated lemon and pepper squid are incredibly tender and so buttery soft they simply melt in your mouth which each savouring bite.
The description of the pumpkin risotto on the menu sounded like nothing special, if anything, at first it sounded a little odd, ‘butternut pumpkin cooked in a butter & cream sauce finished with crumbed amaretto, coffee & parmesan crisps’. However this is one flavour experiment that sounds so wrong but works to make it so right. The creaminess of the pumpkin and cream sauce with the sweet, sugary crunch of the amaretto biscuits set off by the aromatic smell and bitter and toasty twist provided by the sprinkle of coffee beans is a flavour combination that risotto lovers have to try at least once!
Open Monday to Sunday for breakfast and lunch as well as Wednesday to Saturday for dinner, Zingara serve up a variety of both traditional Italian meals (particularly recipes from Venice) and popular, modern favourites that are great for sharing. That is, only if you can fight the urge to consume the whole plate of calamari yourself!