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The development of Italian cuisine mirrors our city’s rich diversity. Mediterranean influences bring fish and olives into culinary creations, carefully handcrafted ziti, cavatelli, and other types of pasta hail from southern Italy, and exquisite desserts such as tiramisu find origins in the north, combining for a tasty eating experience renowned for its ability to bring people together.
With under three dozen establishments offering fine Italian-style dishes from “The European Boot” in Greater Houston and narrowing it down to just under five in The Woodlands, we are seeking that experience that tops them all. And we believe to have found it.
Zanti Italian Cuisine draws its name from one of the restaurant’s founders, Santiago Pelaez, whose affectionate nature and passion for pleasing others earned him the nickname “sentimental Santi” from his very large and teasing family. The joys of exploring food and cooking and caring for those around him are among his earliest memories.
As he and his brothers grew their family’s hospitality business over the years, and across several countries, it seemed inevitable to everyone that Santiago would open a restaurant in Southern Texas, together with his brothers and acclaimed Italian chef Stefano Ferrero from Piemonte, Italy.
This is a destination for a true Italian experience. Santiago believes that to eat well, you must not forget the importance of l’ambiente, la compagnia, and l’ingrediente -the atmosphere, the people, and of course, the ingredients- all essential to the Italian experience. And all of these are to be found at Zanti from the moment you walk through the front doors.
The ambiance is warm and welcoming, designed in an elegant contemporary combination of brick, wood, leather, and brass. The lighting is beautifully balanced during the day between natural and artificial light, while very romantic in the evening.
The service is impeccable throughout the entire experience from the moment you are greeted by the smiley hostess. I especially want to highlight this particular component, as the finest food in the world in the most impeccable setting, can be spoiled by the wrong server. I always expect the friendliest attitude balanced with a professional demeanor from my waiter or waitress. And equally important is not to be unnecessarily interrupted while enjoying the food and the conversation, while on the other hand, I can’t accept my attendant to vanish out of sight for over 3 minutes when needed. At Zanti, this fundamental part of our experience received an A+. It’s all about an obvious great training.
The wide selection of wines is mostly Italian, although there are also iconic domestic labels from California and Oregon; also fine French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Argentinian brands are available. You will definitely find the perfect match to your most demanding taste.
The fresh homemade bread accom-panied by fine olive oil or soft butter, is a must at an Italian table before your meal, and we enjoyed it very much at Zanti. Tasty warm bread right off the oven.
We started our appetizers tour with Arancini, fried risotto balls, fontina cheese, on a spicy arrabbiata sauce.
We also tried the Burrata Cheese, arugula, cherry heirloom tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil on a grilled rustic bread… amazing!
Our first entrée was the Rib Eye Tagliata, a very tender sliced rib eye, an extraordinarily delicious spicy mustard sauce (a treasure of its own), arugula, cherry heirloom tomatoes, and crispy potatoes. This dish is a true sensation!
From the selection of pastas, we decided for the Pappardelle Al Ragú Di Ossobuco, made of fresh pappardelle tricolor pasta, saffron and veal ossobuco sauce. As for anyone with a good Italian ancestry, pasta is my thing, so this master recipe was one to enjoy and appreciate.
The Truffle & Cheese Ravioli is another favorite. This ravioli pasta is cooked to perfection and filled with fontina cheese, taleggio cheese, burrata cheese, parmesan cheese sauce, and truffle oil. This is another must-have.
We regret having left behind many other very enticing entrée options pending for our next visit.
Closing a full Italian experience must include a good dessert, so we tried four:
The traditional Piemonte Tiramisú is far superior to most other Tiramisús.
The Vanilla Panna Cotta is a savory soft white pudding, accompanied by red berry coulis.
The third choice was a legendary Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake; we closed with Bomboloni, original Italian donut holes on a bed of Nutella cream and chocolate sauce. After a taste of these dolce, you are in heaven. They are all equally delicious, and there are plenty more on the menu left for another pleasant surprise in the near future.
The dining experience at Zanti Cucina was memorable and in every respect exceeded our expectations: the service, the atmosphere, and very especially the food, can definitely become addictive.
We were delighted to learn that Santiago is getting ready to bring Zanti Cucina’s success to River Oaks, planned to open next Spring.
For right now, the trip to the Magnolia/The Woodlands corridor is well worth it:
10000 Research Forest Dr, Magnolia, TX 77354
281.259.1300 | zanticucina.com