It's another glorious Summer Friday. The sun is shining, the weekend is here and it's time for a new culinary adventure. With growling stomachs, Lisa and I ventured out to Za in Arlington, MA. Although I've lived in Arlington for 4 years and Za has been here for 6, I still haven't stopped by for some pizza, even when they started serving lunch. What a shame because we were in for a pleasant surprise. Za is a pizza and salad joint, just as the sign suggests, but it's pizza and salad taken to the next level. It's upscale pizza and salad at a pretty reasonable price. Za is pretty well-known for their unusual pizza toppings. They have an ever-changing chalkboard specials menu plus a unique regular menu. They focus on using local ingredients and serving local beers. They also have a small network of local farms that they partner with including Verrill Farm in Concord, MA. So why haven't I been here before? Maybe it's my reluctance to try strange pizzas. Maybe it's the close proximity of the restaurant and how easy to take it for granted. Whatever it is, I'm glad I had lunch at Za's.
First we started off with some iced teas. Lisa guessed that it was lightly brewed Early Grey.
Organic Georgia Strawberries with Goat Cheese, Caramelized Onions, Toasted Walnuts, Basil and EVOO
I was super-brave and ordered a pretty unusual pizza off the chalkboard specials. Usually, I scoff at all the combinations on a pizza menu. There is always one or two toppings that make me cringe. I then end up ordering a boring and safe make-your-own pizza. This time, I wasn't going to chicken out. I got this number and I was pleasantly surprised. The strawberries, goat cheese and walnuts worked well together and the basil and onion made it savory. Win-win.
Grilled Chicken, Broccoli, Caramelized Onions, Fresh Garlic, Diced Tomatoes, EVOO, and Four Cheeses
Lisa and I skipped salads and opted for pizzas with fresh and light toppings and to make room for dessert. We traded some slices and Lisa's pizza was delicious. Big chunks of garlic and a great combination of cheese took this pretty basic pizza to the next level. The crust was crispy and sturdy enough to hold up the weight of the ingredients on top. That's pretty unusual to find.
Verrill Farm Rhubarb Panna Cotta with Sliced Strawberries
Now on to dessert. I really wanted the lemon tart with strawberries, but unfortunately they were out. But the Panna Cotta sounded amazing and came recommended by the waiter. The Panna Cotta was sweet and tart and the rhubarb and cream were in perfect balance. The local strawberries were super fresh and the whipped cream was to die for. Perfect!
Shanes's Lavender and Honey Creme Brulee
Lisa had this little beauty. You can taste the lavendar but it wasn't overwhelming. Also perfect.
I wish I could have tried one of Za's salads but alas our budget and our stomachs wouldn't have been able to take, pizza and dessert after one of their salads, even though they were small. It would have been nice if they had inexpensive side salads on the menu for those of us who didn't necessarily want to splurge on calories and money.
The moral of the story: If you live in Arlington, go to Za's. Go now! Don't wait like I did.