By Steven Doyle
Photos by Robert Bostick
The first time I heard about Zanata in downtown Rockwall I was on a visit to its neighbor about a half block west at Restaurant Ava. What made me curious about Zanata was the fact that the restaurant was only equipped with a wood-fired oven. And like their neighbor Ava, Zanata is a true farm-to-table restaurant that takes advantage of of the bounty found on local farms, something that has become extremely popular these days.
Popular dishes on the Rockwall menu include their wonderful clams replete with a spicy broth laden with fresh Parmesan. The spinach and Gorgonzola stuffed quail is wrapped with bacon and baked to a crispness that rings out with a crunch followed by a tenderness that dribbles juice with eat nibble. They also make a few great steaks – all roasted to tenderness in that wood oven. No doubt the way food was meant to be cooked.
What confounds is the fact that these restaurants are doing so well in their sleepy but growing burgs. I have often asked the “what if” about both restaurants. What if these fantastic restaurants were located on a busy intersection in Dallas? Would they be even more successful? Would they still be the sweetheart restaurants tucked 20 minutes away from downtown Dallas?
Zanata has stretched its wings to find out just that and recently opened an outpost in a beautifully reconditioned building in downtown Plano. The setting might be similar to its country cousin in Rockwall, but this location has been equipped with far more than just the wood oven. A full kitchen has been installed along with a well-stocked bar that is located on the second floor and actually spills out to an incredible balcony with a scenic look to the old, but kempt look at a city past.
Zanata’s chef Ted Grieb is excited about the new location that has already been well received by local residents. “We do things a bit different at this location and tailored the menu somewhat differently. You will find more pastas and fish dishes, plus great cocktails,” said Grieb on a recent visit.
“We do things a bit different at this location and tailored the menu somewhat differently. You will find more pastas and fish dishes, plus great cocktails,”
Stand outs at the Plano locale include the sopressata bruschetta, a brothy braised beef that is roasted in a crock, and a home made spaghetti that buries giant shards of lobster. Their crispy pork ribs and broccoli rabe might possibly be the most stand out rib I have had in years. And of course there is a slew of pizza possibilities to enjoy including their clam pie that rivals some of the best in DFW including that of Nonna.
The bar is imaginative and reflects the current trend of great cocktails under the command of ex-Bolsa barman Walter “Dub” Davis . Zanata at either location is well worth a visit. How the Plano location might affect its near neighbor Urban Crust is yet to be determined, they both have wood-fired menus.