On a search to find the best Italian food in the city (spoiler alert: I don’t think we’re ever going to come to a consensus), one can’t leave out Zozo’s Ristorante. Located in a shopping center on Moana, you could miss the Italian eatery if you didn’t know it was there, but once you step inside you are transported from the strip mall exterior to a charming restaurant that could easily be in Italy.
Inside, Zozo’s is dimly lit and almost always busy (reservation recommended) but if you’re able to score a table, you won’t be disappointed.
There is a list of simple cocktails on the menu to choose from as well as beers; it’s not a full bar inside. But, when it comes to Italian food, wine is the best pairing. If you can, split a bottle. There are a few options by-the-glass but the bottle selection is much better in terms of quality and variety, including everything from California wines you may not have heard of to Italian varietals. Whatever you order, it comes in a large goblet-like glass, and you can buy them to take home (and you just might want to).
Once the drinks are situated, dive into the menu.
We started with calamari, fried golden brown and served with a basil aioli. The crispy outside was done well and the basil aioli was the kind of sauce you want to take home in a jar to eat on everything. The calamari itself was really just adequate. The squid was a little chewy and without the sauce a tad bland. If you’re adventurous, an order of escargot may serve you well. Typically a French delicacy, Zozo’s is prepared with a garlic sherry butter, melted gorgonzola cheese and garlic bread. It’s worth a taste.
Moving on to entrees, all dishes come with choice of soup or salad, and even an upgrade to a Caesar salad. The Caesar here is very good, with a dressing that will make your mouth water. The ingredients are standard—parmesan cheese, croutons and lettuce—but put together very well.
If you like seafood, you’re in the right place. Don’t miss out on the shrimp scampi, served in a basil cream sauce over herbed rice and finished with tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. The rice is an unexpected accompaniment that elevates the texture of the dish. The shrimp is also very tasty, and I don’t know what it is about this place but every sauce is just perfection.
3446 Lakeside Dr., Reno, Nev. 89509
Friday & Saturday 4:30-9:00
If you prefer to order pasta, there’s a list of options to choose from, many of which are vegetarian but you can also add your choice of meat. Vegan eaters will be pleased to hear the menu offers a capellini pomodoro that fits the diet.
For me, it was the bowtie carbonara, Zozo’s own spin on the classic pasta dish. This dish is made with peas and pancetta in a parmesan cream sauce as you would expect at many Italian eateries. I highly suggest you use the house garlic bread to sop up as much of the sauce as possible. The addition of artichokes, however, is the best decision chefs could have made. Plus, I don’t usually see a bowtie noodle on a carbonara, and that was a welcome surprise. Add in some hearty chunks of tomato, and the dish is a perfect balance of heavy cream and refreshing vegetables.
With all of the options for Italian in Reno, it can be hard to choose which establishment you want to visit for dinner. Zozo’s, however, will continue to be a choice for those nights we’re craving pasta and red wine. And, if you like Italian, I encourage the rest of Reno to give the long-standing restaurant a try.
Correction: The calamari at Zozo’s is not octopus. It is squid, just like all other calamari dishes.
Nora Heston Tarte is a long-time Reno resident living on the southside of town. In addition to food, her hobbies include wine, hiking, yoga and travel. She is also the managing editor of a regional, lifestyle publication and freelances for other publications most frequently in the travel space. Nora received her bachelor’s in Journalism from California State University, Sacramento before graduating from University of Nebraska, Lincoln with a master’s in Professional Journalism. You can follow her travel adventures, and local exploits, on her Instagram account @wanderlust_n_wine.