Recently, half of Foodie Pleasure (Allen) made the drive to Norwalk, CT to catch up with a friend and meet his newborn son for the first time. Of course, a visit to Norwalk would not be complete without checking out a place to eat. Mediterraneo, which just opened in the area inside the new Hotel Zero Degrees, fit the bill.
For starters, I tried the Yellow Fin Crudo. I enjoy both avocado and raw fish so it was a great way to start lunch.
For my entree, I ordered the Chicken Scapriello. The chicken was cooked just right with the right amount of spice. The spinach added a perfect compliment to the dish.
We ordered truffles to close out a great meal.
The food was great and the service was even better. I will definitely come back with the other half of Foodie Pleasure in the near future!
After lunch, I reached out to Adam Zakka, Chief Operating Officer of Z Hospitality Group, which operates a number of restaurants including Acqua (Westport, CT), Terra (Greenwich, CT), Sole (New Canaan, CT) and Aurora (Rye. NY) along with another Mediterraneo in Greenwich, CT.
FP: My friend and I really enjoyed our lunch at Mediterraneo Norwalk. What inspired you to open up another restaurant in the area?
AZ: A combination of factors led to the opening in Norwalk. We were originally approached by Randy Salvatore, the owner of Hotel Zero Degrees, prior to the construction of the hotel. He asked us if we would be interested in taking one of our most successful brands to the Norwalk area. Once we did some research on the under-served market, it was apparent that there was a strong need for a good restaurant there.
FP: I’m sure Norwalk is glad to have Mediterreneo in the neighborhood!
Besides all the places Z Hospitality Group operates, where are some of your favorite places to eat?
AZ: Some of my favorite places to eat are local to me. I enjoy a local sushi restaurant in Greenwich. Aside from that, sometimes we get into the city to go to the all the big names. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen all that often with my schedule. I really like Danny Myer’s restaurants.
FP: Describe your ideal meal. Where would it be? What setting? Who are you with?
AZ: My ideal meal would have to be with my wife in an exotic locale. Preferably the Caribbean or another warm place where we could indulge in great seafood that is bought straight from the fisherman’s boat. That’s my favorite.
The cuisine doesn’t have to be complex, but the most important aspect for me is to dine overlooking the fishery where the fish was caught, meet the man who caught it, and the chef who will prepare it. That’s often the way it is when we go on vacation and I can’t think of better setting.
FP: Sounds like a perfect setting and meal!
What advice would you give aspiring restaurant owner/operators?
AZ: The best advice I ever heard is quite cliché: “the customer is always right.” Now, that may not be exactly the case ALL the time, but it really is about making customers happy. If they are not happy, try your very best to satisfy them. I find that if you make a mistake or something isn’t exactly how the customer would like, if you are sincere in your efforts and genuinely want to make it right and the customer happy, that the rest will fall into line. That’s what the hospitality business is all about, making people happy. We love to do it. You must love to make people happy.
FP: When you’re not working, what do you cook for yourself at home? Do you have any favorite dishes?
AZ: When I get time to cook at home, I really like to smoke and slow cook. 8hr pulled pork roasts, ribs, etc. Easy cleanup and it tastes great. Easy cleanup is key here. I don’t like to spend my time off bussing my own table at home and cleaning the kitchen!
FP: We hear ya! Cleaning up is always the hardest part!
What are some of your guilty pleasures? We call the foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂
AZ: I will admit that I do like fast food from time to time. Wendy’s puts out an amazing hamburger. Nothing like a good burger with a Coca-Cola Classic. It takes me back because it has always tasted the same my entire life.
FP: A burger and a Coke are definitely foodie pleasures!
In three words, how would your friends and family describe you?
AZ: I would hope my friends would consider me to be caring, genuine, and of good humor. Oh yea, I would hope they think I am also hard-working! That’s important.
FP: Nothing says hard-working more than running multiple restaurants!
Outside the restaurant business do you have any hobbies and/or interests?
AZ: My favorite thing to do in my spare time is to be out on the water. I have spent my entire life sailing. My family has always kept a sailboat on the Long Island Sound. More recently I have taken up fishing. Anything that gets me out there is good by me.
FP: Hope you get to sail a lot this summer! Thank you so much for your time!