Not every Italian restaurant needs baked ziti and eggplant parmigiana. At Zeppoleme, the chefs strive to create a hybrid, bistro-style setting that combines elements of a wine bar, a coffee house, and a trattoria underneath the same roof. Instead of designing a menu that incorporates dishes from every corner of the Italian peninsula, the chefs choose to present diners with a curated collection of dishes that is intended to spotlight the potential of a handful of items prepared with hand-crafted care, as well as the occasional modern touch.
Befitting its name, zeppole?Italian-style donuts?appear prominently on Zeppoleme's menu. The list includes the time-honored version so often seen in the kitchens of Italian homes and on the streets during the annual Feast of St. Joseph; however, the chefs also create their own version by folding ricotta into the dough, making the pastry lighter and fluffier than their traditional counterparts. As many as six different dipping sauces, including vanilla cream, Nutella, and lemon glaze, can accompany these zeppole for dessert. For a more savory take on the treat though, Zeppoleme also offers another modern innovation: appetizer-sized versions stuffed with hearty fillings, such as bacon, chives, and provolone.
Although the zeppole appear prominently on the menu and even attracted the attention of Food Network personality Giada de Laurentiis, the selection also features a number of heartier gourmet options. Butter-pressed panini include everything from spicy eggplant and goat cheese to broccoli rabe and beef short ribs that braise for a full 24 hours. Even the salads put on upscale spin on the expected, as evidenced by the classic caesar made with kale instead of standard iceberg filler.
Stopping in for a quick bite or a meal is always an option, although Zeppoleme also caters to the whims of passersby seeking a drink and an opportunity to lounge for a bit in a relaxed setting. Baristas make specialty espresso drinks while exclusively using beans from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, and the bartenders keep spirits high full by pouring fresh glasses of wine straight from the taps. Even with its gourmet bistro spirit and festively vibrant decor, Zeppoleme never manages to lose "the friendly, drop-in culture that thrives here," according to the New York Times.