by Stacey Bomser (Our City Weston Magazine, Cover)
It’s been one year since Zona Blu first opened its doors and welcomed Weston diners to sample a taste of Sardinia. In this short time, the restaurant has made a splash on the South Florida restaurant scene with its fresh flavors and unique dishes from the beautiful Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy. “Although we are Italian, our island has many diverse cultural influences that are infused into our cuisine,” explains Deborah Marras Bautista, who co-owns Zona Blu with her sister, Sheila Marras David, and Executive Chef Andrea Fadda; all three are proud of their Sardinian heritage. “For more than 2,500 years, the island was occupied by nearly every Mediterranean power from the Middle East, North Africa, Southern Europe and the Far East. Those influences resulted in one of the most deliciously unique cuisines in the world.” Bautista says Chef Fadda takes pride in creating dishes that are not typically known outside of Sardinia, such as Fregola, a broth-based, saffron-infused soup with Sardinian couscous and mixed seafood. The restaurant’s best-selling dish is Spaghetti al Cartoccio. This features spaghetti mixed with seafood in a fresh tomato sauce covered with a thin layer of pizza dough and baked in a wood-burning oven. To truly sample a taste of Sardinia, Bautista suggests diners start with the Pecorino Soufflé appetizer. This soufflé features Sardinian pecorino cheese with sautéed mushrooms in a black truffle sauce. For the Primo Piatto (pasta dish), she recommends the Spaghetti alla Ruota. It is prepared tableside with fresh tomato sauce tossed in a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese aged 36 months.
Bautista says it’s a feast for the eyes and stomach. “A video recently posted on our Facebook page of our chef preparing this dish has reached over 8,000 views.” Be sure to save room for dessert. Bautista’s favorite is the Seada, a delicate puffed pastry filled with sweet cheese, lightly fried and then drizzled with Sardinian honey. Keeping with Sardinian tradition, Debbie and Sheila’s mom is in charge of preparing this dessert for the restaurant using a recipe passed down from her mother. All dishes are meticulously prepared by Zona Blu’s creative culinary team. Executive Chef Andrea Fadda, a native of Cagliari, Sardinia, began his 25-year career at the prestigious College of Cuisine in Porto Pino, Sardinia. His culinary path led him to five-star resorts throughout the Italian Alps during the winter months and along the famous Emerald Coast of Sardinia during the summer. According to Bautista, throughout Chef Fadda’s career, he worked in some of the world’s most glamorous restaurants, from London and Paris to Zanzibar and the Maldives Islands. A desire to live the American dream eventually brought him to South Florida, where he has quickly cultivated a following with his mission to bring a bit of Sardinia’s lifestyle and cuisine to our culturally-rich community. Chef Fadda is joined in the kitchen by Executive Chef Marco De Simone. According to Bautista, Chef De Simone’s passion for cooking began in the kitchen of his father’s restaurant in Sicily. He attended culinary school in Milan and, after graduating, worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Italy, France and Switzerland. In 2010, Chef De Simone’s culinary journey took him to Las Vegas, Curacao and eventually Miami, where he established a reputation for regional Italian cooking with cutting edge art and design. With this expertise and experience in the kitchen, it’s not surprising that Zona Blu has been heralded as one of the region’s best new restaurants. “We are proud of many accomplishments and accolades from our first year,” states Bautista. “Since opening last September, we have consistently been rated one of the top restaurants in Weston on Trip Advisor and Yelp. We were named Best New Restaurant in Best of Weston 2016. We were recently named one of the top five new restaurants in Broward and Palm Beach counties by City and Shore magazine. In addition, we earned the prestigious Ospitalita Italiana (Quality Approved) seal, signifying that our Italian cuisine is authentic, made with real Italian imported ingredients of the highest quality.”
Freshness is one of the standards of Sardinian cuisine. “Sardinia is a Blue Region, one of the few places on earth where people often live to be over 100 years old, and the cuisine is often cited as playing a part in their longevity,” notes Bautista, adding that the restaurant uses only the freshest ingredients, with daily deliveries of meat, seafood, produce and dry goods. Many of the dishes are also organic. “We pride ourselves on our authenticity and are highly selective with our ingredients and products. We spend the time it takes to ensure that what we serve you is authentic,” shares Bautista. “If you believe in quality ingredients, you will love our food.”
To complement its delicious dishes, Zona Blu bakes its breads in-house daily. For those wishing to take a taste of Sardinia home with them, all of their specialty luncheon meats and cheeses are sold by the pound. You can also purchase sausage, imported olive oils, and Sardinian pastas, as well as over 70 wines. “At Zona Blu, we strive to make every guest feel as if he or she stepped into a quaint restaurant in Italy to join friends and family for a rustic, authentic meal,” states Bautista. “The hallmark of Sardinian hospitality is welcoming people to the table. So, please, sit down, enjoy a meal and toast: A Kent’ Annos!, to 100 years!”