Pioneering Italians were not only the first to put tomatoes in cuisine, they were also the first people to take photographs of themselves pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Delight in their inventiveness with today's Groupon: for $15, you get $30 worth of contemporary Italian cuisine at Zocca in the Westin Riverwalk Hotel.
Zocca's executive chef, Jeff Foresman, composes a distinctive symphony of contemporary Italian fare with an ensemble of fresh, seasonal ingredients. Appetizers such as a basil-and-asiago bruschetta ($8) kick off the dinner menu, giving timid taste buds the confidence to take on bigger dishes and bullying incisors. Main events include tender beef short-rib osso bucco ($24) and fettucine al vongole, featuring littleneck clams that travel with an entourage of spices, tomatoes, and chardonnay butter broth ($17). A lunch menu helps daytime diners pay homage to the Earl of Sandwich with panini offerings, the Duke of Pizza with a smattering of pies, or the Viceroy of Productivity with an express lunch combination of soup or salad and meaty pappardelle bolognese ($10). Early birds can celebrate the moon's daily banishment to the galactic basement with a scrumptious breakfast menu.
Exposed wood beams and luxurious onyx panels surround ample seating in Zocca's elegant dining room. Add a side of fresh air to any meal when the restaurant's wood and glass doors are opened to the outside world, or enjoy riverside evenings on the patio, where you can indulge your brain with daydreams of becoming a fancy gondolier.
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