When I heard there was another Italian restaurant opening in Encinitas, I thought wow; they must have something different to offer, as there is no shortage of Italian food in this area.Sure enough, the folks at Zardo have brought fresh, homemade and organic to the fast casual Italian segment and as far as I’ve seen, that’s a first around here. It’s actually really nice to see this segment going in this direction.For those of you unfamiliar, fast casual is a type of restaurant that does not offer full table service, but promises a higher quality of food and atmosphere than a fast food restaurant. In the U.S., it is a relatively new and growing concept positioned between fast food and casual dining.Zardo’s philosophy is to obtain the freshest ingredients and produce in everything they make, including fresh-filled pastas in various flavors, fresh gluten-free pastas as well as prepared meals such as lasagna and pizza. They do not use artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. There are not many full-service Italian joints in this area that can make that claim.
I spoke with Bianca Zardo, the chef and owner of Zardo Organic Pasta recently, about her new venture.
LTP: Tell me more about your background. You are of Italian descent but were raised in Brazil?
BZ: I am Brazilian, but my family is Italian. I was raised in Brazil in an Italian family.
LTP: Describe how Zardo came to be … your culinary background and inspirations.
BZ: It was mine and my husband Ricardo’s dream. We have been preparing to open this restaurant for more than two years. All of the ideas and recipes came from us, including the design, color and feel of the restaurant. I am a pharmacist by trade but cooking is what makes me happy. I’ve been cooking since I was 5 years old. I don’t have any kind of cooking diploma, but everything that I cook is made with passion and inspired by generations of family recipes, with an emphasis on being as healthy as possible.
LTP: Where do you source your ingredients from?
BZ: All our ingredients are from local farms and we try to use organic products whenever possible. This is something we are passionate about.
LTP: Describe the prep process that goes into some of your favorite dishes including the meat mixture in the chicken, beef, and pork ravioli, which is amazing by the way.
BZ: My husband is a meat lover, so I made this ravioli for him by combining all the meat I could find to make him happy. It reminds me of eating an Italian sandwich. My favorite is lasagna Bolognese, fresh and delicious and again, everything is made from scratch in our kitchen.
LTP: There are a lot of Italian restaurants in the area, what is your key differentiator? What makes you different and better?
BZ: I believe anyone can make good food but not many places, especially at our low price point, take the time or effort to make it from scratch. We make all of our dishes daily using fresh, organic products. People are much more aware of what they are eating today, where it comes from, and how it is prepared. You will not find fresh homemade gluten-free pasta and gluten-free homemade lasagna in town anywhere else. I am also a very hands-on owner. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and with our customers, discovering what they like and what they are looking for.
LTP: Is this your first location? I noticed you have franchise opportunities on your website, what is your plan for that?
BZ: Yes this is our first location, but our goal is to have others soon. We have a concept that people are reacting to and are looking at locations and partners that would like to be part of this fresh delicious food team.
I have been back to Zardo’s a couple of times now and the freshness of the ingredients and quality of preparation is evident in everything I’ve tried. There is nothing on the menu more than $13, which is amazing given the quality and attention to detail. I would definitely give this place a try, and I have a feeling they may become a regular addition to your Italian food mix.
You can check out the full menu, hours and location online at zardoorganicpasta.com.
Lick the Plate can now be heard on KPRi, 102.1 FM Monday-Friday during the 7pm hour.
David Boylan is founder of Artichoke Creative and Artichoke Apparel, an Encinitas based marketing firm and clothing line. Reach him at email@example.com or (858) 395-6905.