Pizza Parlor scales down with locally sourced ingredients
RESTAURANT REVIEW: Za
Located just a short block away from the Kendall Square stop, Za has an inconspicuous storefront that could easily be overlooked. It took several walks past Za for me to finally go, even though each time I would comment on how delicious the food smelled from outside. Za has a simple menu—salad and pizza (and dessert!)—but they show that there can be a lot done with just two kinds of dishes. The ingredients are locally sourced from farms in New England and the flavors really shine through. The salads are not what you would expect them to be. Instead of a big bowl of greens with a variety of toppings, each salad is carefully crafted into a tower that blends together all the ingredients. The pizzas are medium sized—one is definitely enough for one person and may even be filling for two.
As a starter I had the Hass Avocado Salad that came with black beans, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onion, cheddar cheese, and cilantro lime vinaigrette. It was dressed with crunchy tortilla crumbs and topped with a dollop of sour cream. The flavors blended well together and the tortilla crumbs added a nice contrast in texture to the otherwise mushy tower greens. Texturally, it was not pleasing as a salad, but would have been a fantastic dip as it reminded me of a good guacamole with just more solid pieces in it.
My boyfriend and I split two pizzas—one specialty and one personal pan. The specialty pizza has grilled chicken, broccoli, caramelized onions, fresh garlic, diced tomatoes and was topped with a drizzle of EVOO and four different kinds of cheeses—damn. It had a great burst of flavors with classic ingredients. Each slice had plenty of toppings and was not too greasy. The personal pan was topped with smoked forest ham, white mushrooms, and caramelized onions. It was simple and had a sweet and salty mixture of flavors that I enjoy. The slices were not packed with toppings so the warm, gooey cheese draped delicately along the sides of each slice. I much preferred the smoked ham pizza to the chicken one, especially after a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.
Za is not your typical pizza parlor, though it is similar to California Pizza Kitchen. However, the ingredients at Za are sourced from local farms and the menu is not as overwhelming. There are only 3-4 specialties based on the seasonal ingredients and you can create your own from a variety of toppings offered. The price range fell in the moderate range—about $30 for the two pizzas and the salad. If you’re looking for a casual place to have date or a business meeting in the Cambridge area, Za has a quiet and calm ambiance with simple and comforting food. There is a party-room/lounge area in the back end of the restaurant. Although Za serves relatively high-end pizza, I do not usually consider pizza in general high-end. Overall, if I was in the area and had to pick between CPK and Za, I’d easily make the decision to go to Za but there are many places in Cambridge that I’d want to try before returning again.
Food (taste): B
Food (presentation): B
– Article, Photos by Christina Pan