Z Cucina is a great place to get actually innovative Italianate food. For RW, they're offering a 3 course dinner for $30 that lets you choose from 2 starters, 2 salads & 3 entrees. Here's how dinner for 2 came out:
Pistachio (thickly) crusted very good quality shrimp atop a tiny salad of frisee & scallion smeared w/ a sweet & piquant red onion marmalade--a small but mighty 1st course.
A righteous risotto made w/ tons of silky, smoky chicken meat (it was more bird than rice) & spinach; came w/ actually crisp crostini w/ Asiago cheese. This was almost a meal in itself & a better choice for big eaters than the nice shrimp starter.
I was a big fan of this sweet, smoky, rich, bitter, tart, & thus almost complex salad. Constructed w/ grated Manchego (one of my favorite cheeses), spinach, sweet corn & red peppers, it came dressed in a surprisingly smoky (they obviously like smoke at Z) bacon vinaigrette.
A very decent Caesar salad w/ a heavy dusting of Parmesan that earned distinction from smoked (but no longer crunchy) croutons.
A vegetarian dish that was not an afterthought! This was that rarity: a bold, meatless meal in an upscale, local Italian reataurant absolutely exploding w/ flavor & texture. Below a believable puff pastry stuffed w/ veggies (shrooms, red peppers, asparagus, & squashes) were sauteed spinach & a pool of potent sauce that bravely introduced lemon into a zesty tomato base & then lit that fuse w/ a heavy sprinkling of red chili flakes. Awesome, but definitely not for sissies!
This entree--roulades of sole wrapped around crab, spinach, & onions served w/ polenta (said to have black truffles in it, but I didn't get any) & sauteed escarole w/ red peppers-- tasted as good as it looked. Unfortunately, the escarole was tragically sandy, making that large part of the dish texturally inedible for me. I told the waiter about it & he brought the owner over who eventually (after yet another sandy misfire) charged me 1/2 the $30 price of the special RW cost. Frankly, I believe he should've comped my entire meal, Too bad, too, because what could have been a homerun experience turned into getting called out after rounding 3rd.