If you’d requested me, a few weeks in the past, how I felt about caponata, the agrodolce (sweet-and-sour) Sicilian relish that’s nearly at all times made with eggplant, plus tomato, aromatics, olives, and capers, I might have shrugged. When had I final eaten it? On unhappy crostini, chilly and clumpy? Ask me now and I’ll inform you that the opposite day I had caponata for lunch—not as a condiment or perhaps a facet dish, simply straight caponata, immediately from a plastic deli container, spectacular.
Meatballs in pink sauce are at all times on the menu.
The caponata was made by Zahra Tangorra, the chef behind the late, beloved Cobble Hill Italian restaurant Brucie, who now operates a takeout operation known as Zaza Lazagna. Her interpretation featured butternut squash as a substitute of eggplant, plus white candy potato, cauliflower, San Marzano tomatoes, sage, rosemary, raisins, Castelvetrano and Kalamata olives, and pink onion—shocking however deftly layered in each texture and taste, an apt instance of her freewheeling, intuitive cooking model.
A current salad particular featured romaine, radicchio, shaved Parmesan, parsley, and Pecorino-crusted croutons in a thick dressing someplace between a Caesar and a Green Goddess.
Before Brucie, Tangorra had by no means labored in a kitchen. In 2006, after artwork college and a stint as an Urban Outfitters window designer, she was touring by California with a gaggle of musician buddies when their bus plunged over a cliff. Incredibly, everybody survived. Tangorra was moved to rethink her life. She liked to cook dinner, and with settlement cash from the accident she opened Brucie.
When she closed the restaurant, in 2016, “we were kind of at the height of our popularity,” she advised me not too long ago, however she was feeling burned out, and transitioned to consulting and catering. At Brucie, she had supplied a captivating service: B.Y.O. pan, and so they’d bake you a lasagna to eat at house. In November, 2020, her buddies at Shelsky’s, a smoked-fish store on Court Street, agreed to let her use their kitchen for Zaza Lazagna, to prep heat-and-serve lasagnas (offered entire, in disposable aluminum trays, and by the slice), plus different consolation meals (together with meatballs and large loaves of tomato-butter garlic bread), for pickup from the store on Friday evenings.
Zaza’s garlic bread is made with a seeded Italian loaf from Caputo’s Bake Shop, on Court Street, sliced lengthwise and unfold with tomato butter.
Every week within the colder months, Tangorra and her enterprise associate, a former Brucie cook dinner named Ryan Crossman, make a basic meatless lasagna, with pink sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and provolone, and a particular lasagna, typically impressed by pasta dishes that don’t journey as effectively (Alfredo, Amatriciana), or by, say, the Super Bowl, as within the case of a current spinach-and-artichoke selection. That one anchored a free game-day theme, rounded out by Negroni ribs, braised with entire mandarins in gin, Campari, and vermouth, and Buffalo-chicken-stuffed shells, laced with blue cheese and dill.
To compensate for the lack of dining-room environment, Tangorra and Crossman discover methods to be playful, from a vigorous Web website—the entire basic lasagna marketed with a picture of Garfield the cat, a pint of Sexy Slaw with a still-life of greens organized to seem like a reclining nude—to the handful of sweet (say, Andes chocolate mints) that will get tossed in with orders. Each Friday, they solicit pairings from Brooklyn Wine Exchange, throughout the road from Shelsky’s, and pour tastes as they distribute the meals; if a bottle strikes your fancy, you possibly can pop over and purchase it at a reduction.
Fudge cake is among the many altering dessert choices.
A couple of weeks in the past, my Zaza haul included a paper cup carrying a skirt of fringed tinsel, like a go-go dancer; beneath its lid I discovered a foil firework cocktail decide protruding of an Aperol-spritz cake that would solely be described as groovy, glazed in a tie-dye sample of pinks, its shiny crumb aromatic with olive oil. When we spoke, Tangorra talked about Raymond Carver’s brief story “A Small, Good Thing,” through which a younger couple seeks consolation after a tragedy; a visitor on “Processing,” a podcast that she co-hosts together with her mom, a bereavement therapist, had advisable it. “Sometimes just doing that small, good thing for people—you don’t know what they’re going through,” Tangorra stated. “It could go a long way.” (Dishes $10-$32. Whole lasagna begins at $40.) ♦