February 16, 2012


Ground level, Manulife Place
10180 101 Street
Edmonton, AB T5J 3S4
(780) 423-5409
Located on the ground level of Manulife place, Zenari's offers Italian fare and cookware for the downtown crowd. For those with time to spare, there is a more traditional restaurant section with full sit-down ordering and table service to enjoy a leisurely dinner, wine, and sometimes live music. Customers in more of a hurry can order at the counter and take their orders out or have them brought to their tables.

Three pasta soup
The soups at Zenari's are popular with the lunch crowd, so I decided to give one of the two feature soups a try. The three pasta soup I chose consisted a basic tomato base, vegetables, tortellini, spaghetti, macaroni, and the rare bean. It would make a good side soup, but wasn't hearty enough to be an entire lunch. The other option, mulligatawny, seemed to be the soup most customers were opting for, and maybe that should have clued me in. This one was a bit of a let-down.

Soups come with a slice of buttered bread (which will help make a thinner soup like the above into a more satisfying meal). It was fresh and pretty dense.

Farafelle with chicken pesto sauce (small)
Zenari's has a daily pasta (today's was farafelle) and a couple of daily sauces (as well as several sauces which are always available). I was disappointed to discover that the pastas were not homemade or fresh, and disappointed further with my mushy farafelle. I prefer pasta al dente, but I supposed that it's hard to prepare and keep pasta a particular texture when serving crowds quickly in the lunch rush. The chicken pesto sauce was one of the day's featured sauces, and it was nice with lots of chunks of chicken, tomatoes, and creamy pesto. With all the stuff in it, though, I thought it was an odd choice to feature with farafelle as it didn't lend itself well to coating or mixing.

Fennel & sausage risotto
A spinach risotto is always available, but Zenari's features a special risotto each day as well. The fennel and sausage risotto I ordered that day was marvelous with great texture. The aromatic taste of fennel doesn't work for everyone's tastes, but I love it! Everything combined with plenty of savory sausage made an awesome dish.
Chicken sandwich
Took a chicken sandwich to-go, and received it unheated, so I threw it on my griddler when I got home. Good sized pieces of chicken breast, tomatoes, lettuce, a fresh bun, and what I think was probably pesto resulted in a really good sandwich.
Linguini with bolognese

Wanting to give the pasta another shot on another day, I tried their linguine with bolognese sauce, a regular menu sauce. The pasta was cooked closer to al dente this time, though it was also not homemade or fresh. The bolognese sauce was savory from the meat and bright from the tomatoes with just the right amount of salt to bring it all together.

Blueberry & rhubarb crumble
There are lots of dessert options at Zenari's: rice pudding, tiramisu, pies, squares... you name it! The blueberry and rhubarb crumble was an easy choice for me.They brought it out warm with whipped cream. The tartness of the rhubarb was the dominant flavor but the sweetness of the blueberries balanced it just enough. The the crumble was sweet with a hint of cinnamon, and not at all soggy in texture.

Zenari's is not fine dining, but it is a welcome alternative to the food court fare otherwise available in the malls. It's handy for people downtown, quick, relatively inexpensive and has plenty of variety. You might have to swing a few times before you hit a dish that's a homerun, but I think their menu has something for almost anyone.

Zenari's on Urbanspoon

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