I’ve been hearing about Zambelli’s for as long as I’ve worked in Nisku. Now that’s not that long mind you, but still, from the first time I asked about local eats my coworkers put this restaurant high on the list of recommendations. Yet, we never went. Blame it on timing, or workload, I actually think it had more with my colleagues discovering my blog habits. See, after learning about my passion for food, the reviews slowly simmered down to nothing. Is it as good as they initially said, I started to wonder. Good thing I still had a few more lunch dates with GR to find out.
Originally our group was 5, but with 2 last minute cancellations, GR and I were left waiting for just Tank to arrive. Looking around, I found the restaurant offered that late ’80s tacky flair, right down to the green tinge on the old school TV’s in the bar. The menu was available online, giving me a good head start. It seemed to cover everything from cheap sandwiches to expensive lobster, stuffed mushroom caps to buffalo steaks. Another, all-over-the-board restaurant it seemed. Perfect for the massive daily influx of oil & gas workers.
Tank knew what he wanted form the get go; Small Ham & Mushroom pizza. What arrived reminded me of what you’d find at Royal Pizza (minus the shape). Dense, with a golden crust and lots of greasy cheese, this diner style pizza seemed to hit the spot. GR went with the daily special; Caribbean Encrusted White Fish & Fantail Shrimp. Both the shrimp and fish seemed more like breaded, encrusted, and then cooked in batter. Offering me a bite, I found the seafood tasted more like the sweet chili sauce used for flavouring than anything else. The salad was generic but fresh, while the duchess potato was powder dry.
I felt like a few options, so I ordered the famous Zambelli’s Hole In One and half a dozen Oysters. The hole in one was described as three meatballs dropped in a pita and pierced with a golf tee, so I was surprised to see them show up in little individual pita pockets. I could tell the meat was seasoned, but they were over cooked and the sauce did little to bring back the moisture. I could see these being a tasty appetizer when they are warm and fresh, but these were a long way from that.
The oysters did not show up with my order, and our server mentioned that the cook can’t read properly before huffing away. Finally when the order did arrive, there was 7, instead of 6, to which our server said, ‘apparently our cook can’t read or count’. Nothing like a inter-employee battle to make the meal a little sour. Thinking I might risk my life here with raw oysters, I was pleasantly surprised that none of the oysters offered an off putting flavour or taste. Which of course would be fine if they tasted like anything. With no liquor left in the shell, these poorly prepped orbs of sexual goodness tasted like nothing but the lemon I gently sprinkled on top.
So how was Zambelli’s? I think it’s safe to say it didn’t live up to all the hype. The products were average, with the pizza likely the meals best choice. Then again, with only one visit and over 100 items on the menu, it would take plenty of future visits to get a firm grasp. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m going to give them much more opportunity.