By Autumn Gates
Zino Ristorante touts itself as “a gift from Zeus” (the meaning of the name) and it’s easy to see why: it’s the embodiment of hospitality. Upon entering the new restaurant, you are invited to partake of the freshest Italian food and enjoy your evening without a care in the world. While Zino has only been open for a staggering six months, it runs like a well-oiled machine.
Its owners, Michael Franzino and Vinny Ricigliano, met working at Divieto, another local ristorante which boasts of delicious Italian cuisine. The duo had a vision of opening a restaurant centered around spectacular service.
“I always wanted to have my own restaurant,” Franzino explains. “Life is about seizing opportunities and taking risks, so when we saw this opportunity, we took it.”
While Zino offers many classic Italian dishes, it can most accurately be described as “Italiano Americano” or Italian food with an American twist. In fact, its signature dish is pan-seared walleye!
“Many Italian restaurants and bars around here serve the same thing. We try to give people something they’ve never had before,” says mixologist “Martini Mark.”
Zino carefully selects the best ingredients to craft its recipes. The staff makes its own mozzarella in-house daily. Rather than using Florida lobster tails, they import lobster tails from Maine. The rising ristorante also uses a variety of local ingredients from markets such as Oakes Farm.
To complement its unique selection of culinary delights, Zino provides its customers with an ambience which is both classy and relaxed. Its dim, romantic lighting contributes to the calming atmosphere. Guests can expect to hear tunes from the ’60s and ’70s playing in the background as they enjoy receiving top-notch customer service from the restaurant’s friendly staff.
Franzino describes his passion for service saying, “I love taking care of people. We sell them food and wine, but what we’re really selling them is an experience.”
Zino is a real sit-back-and-relax kind of place that makes its customers feel like they’re going out for a five-star meal. Specifically created for residents of Estero, the staff at Zino does an excellent job of making its guests feel a sense of togetherness.
“We try to make it a neighborhood place where everybody knows each other,” says Ricigliano.
The ristorante even features a double-sided bar table perfect for mingling. Popularly, there is happy hour every day until 5:30 p.m. Diners who are seated by that time enjoy 25 percent off all food and alcoholic beverages.
Franzino and Ricigliano are hoping to spread the gift of hospitality around Southwest Florida by expanding in the near future. “If you build it up slowly and properly, it will stand,” says Franzino.
Although Zino is new to Estero, its superb dining experience positions it among top local restaurants. If you are having a bad day or week, Zino is here to transform your mood by providing authentic hospitality.
- Antipasto Salad: This flavor-packed platter is no ordinary salad! The dish is packed with fresh lettuce, green olives, Italian sausage and artichoke hearts, topped with homemade mozzarella rolled in prosciutto.
- Pan-seared Walleye: It isn’t often that the signature dish at an Italian restaurant is walleye, but Zino’s walleye is a picture of excellence. The mild fish is pan seared and cooked to a perfect, light, flaky texture. This dish is completed with a side of fluffy mashed potatoes and red peppers served over tender green beans.
- Chicken Piccata: If you prefer to stick with the classics, Zino’s Chicken Piccata is sure to please your palate. The popular dish features pasta layered with pan-seared chicken smothered in a delicious lemon butter white wine sauce and topped with capers.
- Eggplant Parmesan: Zino’s take on this classic Italian dish offers you a step into Italian culture. The entrée could be called an eggplant parmesan lasagna as it consists of layers of eggplant, marinara sauce and cheesy goodness, paired with pasta.
- Cannoli: To finish off a delicious meal at Zino, enjoy one of the many heavenly desserts offered at the ristorante. One of our favorites was the cannoli, a crisp pastry stuffed with sweet Italian cheese and chocolate chips. This tasty dessert is drizzled with chocolate and dusted with powered sugar.
- Double Espresso Martini: If you’re looking for a post dinner treat with a little kick, sip on a double espresso martini crafted by “Martini Mark.” The beverage consists of a combination of dark espresso, Vodka and a coffee-flavored liqueur called Kahlúa. The specialty drink is garnished with dark espresso bean dust.
20041 S. Tamiami Trail, Estero