Delicious, fresh pasta at a bargain
Inside, the look of the place, which is based on the Swan House roundabout, is rather sparse and not especially welcoming. But once the food started arriving from the kitchen, we quickly felt right at home.
A couple of the side dishes – £2.50 each – served as starters, and began the meal on a very promising note.
The sourdough bread which arrived first was worth an entire review just by itself: chewy and richly-flavoured, with a crisp crust that was a joy to tear apart with our hands, it let us know that what was to come was going to be good.
Pork and fennel meatballs were tasty without becoming medicinal, as fennel sometimes can. Thin, crisp breadsticks came with creamy blue cheese and soft, fiery nduja sausage.
The main event is, of course, the pasta, and the handmade pappardelle in spicy amatriciana sauce was a perfect example of how glorious fresh pasta can be. The golden ribbons retained just the right amount of bite while showing off the piquant sauce to its best.
They treat their dried pasta pretty well too: ‘spaghetti midnight’ made the simple stunning, showing off thick strands of top-quality pasta with nothing but herbs, chili and a glug of good olive oil. There’s not much to it, but done well, as it was here, a dish like this is a real treat.
On the pudding-front, there’s another small but impressive selection, all at £4 each.
Mint and dark chocolate truffles were obscenely, beautifully rich, and came topped with Persian candy floss. I’d never come across this Iranian delicacy before, and was a little concerned that they’d topped our dish with a handful of sheeps’ wool, but our waitress was quick to explain, and the sugary treat turned out to have a pleasingly complex flavour, not unlike good caramel popcorn.
Banana cake with toffee sauce was squidgy and topped with a huge helping of sticky, slicky-smooth sauce.
With fantastic food, charming service and laughably low prices, Zuccini is definitely worth a visit for a cheap but extremely enjoyable night out.
Back home – stuffed, but aided by a few willing volunteers – we set about trying our takeaway dishes. Although the food was still hot when we got it back, it’s fair to say that pasta isn’t one of those dishes that travels brilliantly.
It tends to congeal just a little bit as it sits in the cardboard boxes, and even a short journey home has an impact.
Fresh pasta like this should really come straight from the kitchen, to be devoured before it has stopped steaming.
Still, you can stick it on a plate and whisk it about a bit and it’s still pretty excellent.
The star of our eat-out selection was the ‘six hour’ beef shin ragu, on pappardelle. You can taste every minute of those six hours in this meltingly soft beef.
A “classic” tomato sauce on tagliatelle was a delight: beautifully rich and pungent with basil, simple ingredients were showcased to their absolute best. Pasta and tomato sauce may sound like a run-of-the-mill tea – something to whip up in minutes after you get home from work – but unless you happen to be an Italian grandma with serious talent in the kitchen, this dish is probably on a different level.
Another selection from the dry pasta – the carbonara – was top-notch. Decadently viscous sauce clung to excellent spaghetti which was, again, perfectly cooked.
Chefs had been just generous enough with the sauce – carbonara shouldn’t be swimming, but if you serve too little it can end up dry and disappointing. No risk of that at Zucchini, where the tricky line has been toed perfectly.
Overall, these are great dishes, which are probably slightly better eaten in, but still pretty good at home.
I don’t think pasta is making any serious challenge to pizza as the Italian takeaway of the North East’s choice, but certainly, if you work nearby, a tub of pasta from Zucchini would make a pretty fantastic lunch, and won’t set you back much more than a fiver.
Alongside our main meals, we enjoyed a Peroni and a good, strong, tasty cappuccino.
Again, the value was great – £3 for my beer, £2 for the coffee. I imagine they do the coffees to take away, and they’re certainly better than what the chain coffee shops are knocking out.
The drinks selection in general is limited, but cheap: you can have a house red or a house white for £3 a glass or £15.50 a bottle, there’s prosecco if you want something fizzy and Bellinis if you’re in a cocktail mood. The value is a lot of what really stands out. You’re getting freshly made, delicious pasta, in tasty sauces, for £8 at the very most, and £4.50 for the cheapest dishes.
We ate what was effectively a hefty three course meal for two, with a drink each, and took three dishes home – all for just under £50.
I imagine they keep the costs down partly by keeping the menu limited, but when every item is lovingly cooked and top-quality, that’s not really something you can complain about.