Strolling the streets of the fabulous city of Rome feels like a journey trough a 3D history book. Every time you turn around another corner, even more impressive buildings remind you of the rich history the city had during the era of the Roman Empire. The capital of Italy, near the river Tiber, is a wonderful place that attracts millions of visitors every year. Even though the crowds add to the bustling atmosphere and amazing vibe within the city, one might want to escape from the swarming streets once in a while. There is simply no better way to do that, then by visiting Zia Restaurant in Trastevere. In an oasis of calm and relaxation, Chef Ziantoni serves a minimalistic cuisine in which the very best products of the country get all the room they need to shine.
Concept & location
When the chef decided to open his own restaurant in the city, he found two potential locations for Zia. One was in the middle of the busy city center. The other option was in Trastevere, a residential area which is known for its small shops and restaurants. As in Trastevere there were no restaurants yet from the culinary level that Zianotoni had in mind for his brainchild Zia, he decided to opt for that choice.
The name Trastevere originates from the Latin words trans Tiberium, which means beyond the Tiber. Trastevere is often described as one of the most pleasant neighborhoods in the city of Rome because of its bohemian and peaceful atmosphere. That peaceful atmosphere can also be found inside Zia Restaurant. Once you walk in, you arrive in the upper part of the restaurant, which is bright, minimalistic and which has even some Scandinavian influences in the interior design. Very different is the downstairs area of the restaurant. The atmosphere there is very dark. The chef aimed at building a restaurant which did not exist yet in the city and that gives guests the feeling that they are at home, enjoying a cozy evening in the coach. Inspiration for that he found in New York, where in his memory restaurants are often dark. The result is an elegant and intimate restaurant which caters for up to thirty guests.
The Chef & the team
Behind the stove of Zia Restaurant is Chef and owner Antonio Ziantoni. Ziantoni was born in a small village not far from Rome. As a kid, he spent a lot of time with his grandmother. She cooked food for the family every day and the young Antonio enjoyed watching her in the kitchen while she was preparing traditional Italian dishes. Probably because of the warm memories he has from that time, cooking reminds him still today of tradition and evokes some kind of a nostalgic feeling. Nevertheless, he did not immediately chose for a culinary career.
He went to technical school and had the ambition to become an architect. But at the age of eighteen, he changed his mind. His love for food and cooking made him chose for a career as a chef. He decided to join Alma, the culinary school which was created in 2004 by famous Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi. After one year in culinary school, he started an internship in Il Pagliaccio, a two Michelin star restaurant in Rome. From there, his culinary career would take off. He left his home country and worked in restaurants and hotels in Australia, France and China. After his journey abroad, he would move back to Italy to the place where it all started : Il Pagliaccio. He stayed there for four years, until he decided to realize a dream he already had for a long time : creating his own restaurant. In 2018 he opened Zia Restaurant in Rome. In the kitchen, Ziantoni is surrounded by a team of four Italian chefs.
The cooking style of Ziantoni is based on Italian cuisine, but is also strongly influenced by the experiences the chef had outside of his home country. Every dish is very minimalistic and is limited in the number of ingredients used. If there are not many different products on the plate, the ones used must be of the very best quality. And this is something Antonio understood very well. He sources the products himself from farmers across the country. He considers it very important to work with small producers. He wants to sustain them and at the same time they help him to sustain himself.
As products play an important role in the cooking style of the chef, the cuisine is also very much influenced by seasonality. Even though some dishes in the meanwhile became signature dishes and are available throughout the year, the menu continuously evolves based on availability of the products. Inspiration to create new dishes is found by tasting products.
Ziantoni believes also that the memory a guest keeps from a restaurant is strongly influenced by the last dish they ate. As such, desserts are very important in Zia. The pastry chef, who immediately joined the team once the restaurant opened in 2018, has an important role in the team. And that he takes up that role in a very serious way, we can only be grateful for. The taste and texture of the flan that he served during our visit, will indeed be a memory to Rome we will not easily forget.
The gastronomic offering of Zia Restaurant has also been recognized by Michelin with one Michelin Star. Some of the dishes we tried :
Service & Wine
Service in Zia is warm, welcoming and very attentive. Even though you might not notice it, your table is watched the whole time to make sure that every need is taken care of long before you as a guest would consider expressing it. The team which consists of five people, avoids to be formal and aims at creating a rather casual atmosphere. Service is flawless, gentle and even though they aim at being casual, a polite distance is kept with the guests at all times.
The wine list boasts more than seven hundred labels of which 85% of them are Italian. The remaining part is mainly French, but also some new world wines can be found. The sommelier likes to discover unique wines from labels which produce limited numbers of bottles because that creates a more interesting story for the guests. They consider small producers as true artisans and see a real added value in that. However, in all the choices they make, there is only one criterium which is important : the wine needs to be delicious. During our visit, this lead to a pairing of unknown labels, which worked extremely well with the food that was served.
We are quite sure we do not need to convince you that a visit to Rome is a magical voyage through time. The city feels like one big open air museum and is a wonderful place for those who love history. For those who love food, an almost unlimited number of restaurants can be found across the city. Zia Restaurant of Chef Antonio Ziantoni stands out from all the traditional Roman restaurants you find everywhere in the city. From the moment you walk in, you start enjoying the serene and quite atmosphere and the fabulous service. And then you haven’t tasted the food yet. The very clean, minimalistic and truly delicious creations of Ziantoni with the best Italian produce, make Zia without any doubt a must do during every visit to Rome.