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It seems everybody is doing tacos these days. And I’m not complaining. But when you add the word authentic to your shingle, well, that gets my attention. ZaZa Kitchen on Marco Island makes that claim, and the restaurant is the latest chapter in my ongoing dining adventure.

No appetizers for us. I wanted room to enjoy the obligatory tortilla chips. In the case of ZaZa, the chip itself is neither extraordinary nor awful. I will give them an adequate. Of the accompanying salsas, one  was flavorful and well above average; my only complaint is that it’s a bit watery for my taste; the other, pico de gallo, was fresh and delicious – and if you mix the two; near perfect.

First, my entrée: I ordered the taco dinner special, three tacos, rice and beans. Given this was my first visit, I went on an exploratory bend, choosing carnitas, al pastor and tinga chicken; two porks and a plucker.

Both the carnitas and al pastor benefited from the all-day roasting which was boasted on the menu. The carnitas was fall-off-the-bone tender, with a delicious blend of subtle flavors. The pineapple, achiote sweet tangy goodness of the al pastor left me wanting more. But my hard-to-find favorite was the tinga. Shredded chicken, slowly simmered for hours in a sauce made from tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo; oh my. I could eat my weight in tinga. Bravo for adding this to your menu. Please keep it there.

There was less rice and beans than sometimes accompanies these platters. But that’s OK. I’m here for the main event. If you want salsa verde, it’ll cost you ($.99). Not bad, but surprised. I’ve never seen this done with tacos before.

My partner in dine had the chiles rellenos; two poblano chiles stuffed with cheese, coated in an egg batter with a tomato sauce on top. He gave the dish a seven out of 10, saying it was delicious, but would have been vastly improved with more sauce.

Authentic: yes. Delicious: Absolutely. And with a few tweaks, it could go from solid performer to superstar status.

And if I may bend your ear, restaurant owner: add another hard to find item, elote, and you’ve got a customer for life in me.  

This newspaper pays for all meals related to dining reviews. We do not solicit or accept free food. 

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If you go

ZaZa Kitchen

1095 Bald Eagle Drive, Marco Island

239-970-5205

eatatzaza.com

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