by Max Hauser
Zucca Ristorante, 186 Castro, (650) 864 9940 www.zuccaristorante.com
A Mediterranean bistro with pleasant bar area in front.
Though Zucca opened in 2001, locals may still perceive it as one of the “newer” downtown restaurants. It was among a wave of openings that included what are now some of downtown’s best known. When Mehmet Degerli and Praveen Singha opened Zucca, it was also something new, combining upscale ambience, pan-Mediterranean cooking (I’ve enjoyed Greek, Italian, and Turkish specialties), and a “happening” bar.
I remember ad-hoc parties around that bar, which might include the mayor, a local musician or two, Castro merchants, a NASA scientist who stopped in for his habitual Martini before dinner, and various hangers-around, all convivial. Singha would bustle around, rearranging things, remarking on the “high energy” he saw on Castro Street. Over the years Zucca has hosted countless business meals over mezze appetizer platters, steamed mussels, or hanger steaks.
Sidewalk tables are very popular in fine weather. I used Zucca frequently in its first few years for business and pleasure dining. By the time Degerli left the partnership to open Bodrum Café up the street in 2008, Zucca had more competition than in 2001.
Newer restaurants like Café Baklava and the big venues off California (Cantankerous Fish and Cascal) serve similar markets, while competitive Mediterranean cooking is available up and down Castro.
However, the population dining in downtown Mountain View has also grown enough to support many more restaurants than in 2001.
Zucca’s popularity remains, and Singha recently told me of midweek value offerings and Sunday brunches. The downtown “high energy” that he observed in Zucca’s early days has only increased.