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EVOO and Za in Kendall Square

As a Kendall Squareian, I am thrilled to learn that the EVOO/Za folks are planning to open 2 restaurants in the neighborhood.

http://www.cambridgema.gov/CityOfCamb... - scroll down to page 54.

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  1. It's actually just one space, one kitchen, but with two separate restaurant "concepts". One is EVOO 2, the other will be Za 2. Separate dining areas for each, but sharing an entrance and a patio. Of course, it's all very much just in the planning stages, but sounds great.

    1. I'm glad to hear that something is going in there, the empty storefronts are kind of sad. Although I've been remiss in going to EVOO, I was really underwhelmed by Za. I wanted to like it, but wasn't impressed.
      Still, good to hear that there are things getting started over there, even in this economy.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cpingenot

        Don't go into Za thinking its fine dining - its got a focused good menu targeted on those eating nice, casual dinner - a salad and a pie. Sitting in Za with the windows open onto Mass Ave on a summer evening is a treat. It should be a nice fit with the lunch crowd around Kendall..

      2. I am one of the EVOO/ Za partners and I want to let everyone know what is happening. Peter and Colleen McCarthy and I have closed on two locations in Kendall Square. They will be located in the Watermark building on Third Street and should be open next February. EVOO will be moving from its current location and Za will open a second location. The two locations will be next to each other and will share an entry way and a host/ess stand, but will be operated as separate concepts. Za (including a 13-seat, full-service bar) will seat about 80 guests inside and 50 guests outside. EVOO will seat about 70 guests inside and 50 guests outside. Both menus will be consistent with the current operations. Za and EVOO will both be open for lunch and dinner to serve workers, residents, students, visitors, and anyone else who would like to come. We are looking forward to February and are very excited to be part of the Kendall Square community.
        Steve Kurland

        4 Replies
        1. re: Friend of Fred

          I'm happy you are able to expand, especially in this economy, but as a resident of EVOO's current environs, I'll be sad to see it go from "food four corners." (Will we have to call it "food 3 corners" now, or will there be a new startup to replace it?) I'll be curious to see if the restaurant can support a much larger customer base. I'm really hoping you succeed but sorry that we'll be losing a fine neighborhood restaurant that has also become a destination for those from other neighborhoods.

          1. re: bella_sarda

            Hopefully something will replace EVOO. No offence to the owner but I had a poor experience there (mostly the comedy service) and have never bothered to return. There is still food on all four corners, too.

            1. re: chickendhansak

              Oh yeah, Kebab Factory! Still, there will no longer be a fine-dining establishment a la EVOO. Dali has its role to play, but is no sub for an EVOO-type place.

              1. re: chickendhansak

                Yep. The bar for service has risen considerably in this town -- it used to be bad almost everywhere, but now the better places seem to have gotten their act together. The two times i've been to EVOO reflect this general improvement: not so good the first time (2004ish), pretty good the second (last month). I hope the trend continues. Might be a challenge with so many more seats in the new place.

          2. I just want to say this to the Za haters: I simply do not understand this. I know, to each his own, but for the record: I really love Za. It's partially adopted-hometown pride (go spyponders!) in a local restaurant that sources much of its ingredients from local farms; but it's also because I really do think the quality is good. Of course, I'm also one of those folks who is happy about almost any variant of pizza that is made with interesting/unusual ingredients, and can stand up without cheese -- as theirs can. (No cheese on pizzas -- it's my personal cross to bear.)

            And I love Emma's, too. I'll be curious to see how that works out in Kendall when they go head-to-head. Maybe Za will siphon some Emma's business, and it'll be easier to get in there? Whichever way it goes, I'm thrilled for the McCarthys and their expansion plans. We've always had such pleasant, friendly experiences at their restaurants, and wish them well.

            15 Replies
            1. re: litchick

              i was rooting for you but you lost me at "no cheese on pizzas". yikes.

              1. re: hyde

                Look, its not like I'd opt for no-cheese if I didn't have to. Sadly, I'm highly allergic to cow's milk. ;(

              2. re: litchick

                I wouldn't say that I "hate'' Za, but I can tell you in two words why I don't like their pizza: lousy crust.

                1. re: katzzz

                  Totally agree. The crust is the problem. The toppings are all fine and all that, but the backbone of the pizza isn't so dissimilar to something you'd find in the frozen food section of, say, Super Stop & Shop. The salads, meanwhile, are on the excellent side. Beets and goat cheese, all the way.

                  Oddly, this will mean that I will have Za within two blocks of both my apartment and my office. Why are you following me, Za?

                  1. re: katzzz

                    Same here. The toppings are fresh and interesting, but the crust is soggy and terrible.

                    1. re: katzzz

                      Hm. I wonder if I just don't care as much about crust as I do about toppings/sauce? I don't honestly know, but it's possible. I've never had a problem with their crust, but maybe it's just not as much a priority for me. I am very pizza-flexible -- I like most crust styles, except for the super oily ones. Whereas I do care about whether the place can put some toppings together that make up for the no-cheese thing. But hey -- I guess I don't mind too much if y'all don't love Za. It'll make it slightly easier to get a table on Fri and Sat nights.

                      1. re: katzzz

                        Yup. I've been in on this conversation at least once before, and it comes down to the crust for me too. Bland and flavorless. It's really too bad, because their topping combos are so interesting. It was especially too bad when I lived right down the street from the place. I really wanted to like it.

                        1. re: MrsCheese

                          Hopefully the manager/owner who chimed in above is listening. I just can't imagine a pizza place that doesn't prioritize its crust. If pizza is your business, you better figure out how to make a good crust.

                          1. re: bella_sarda

                            If the crust is so horrible why do I consistantly have to wait 30 minutes on a tuesday and up to an hour on the weekends to get a table? The place is great. I have been there at least a hundred times and plan on hundreds more.

                            1. re: fat pete

                              No accounting for taste. We'll see if Cambridge loves it like Arlington does.

                      2. re: litchick

                        Here's another Za "hater" (a rather strong term). The crust was just BAD. We liked the neighborhood feel, didn't mind the wait in the cramped waiting area, decent beer+wine, delicious salads, but the crust was just weird. Litchick, I don't get it - you can't eat the cheese and you say that you are not picky about crust. Then why eat pizza? For me, it's ALL about the crust.

                        1. re: litchick

                          Za = blah. As pointed out the crust is woefully inadequate, and I really didn't find anything about the pie or overall experience compelling enough to go back a 2nd time. Just not my bag, pretty easy to understand actually.

                          1. re: Gabatta

                            Of course, I might suggest that the Za crust is very good for its style. Perhaps those who are hating just prefer a different style? I've been thinking about this all week. At first, I was willing to consider the possibility that I am not picky about crust (see my posts above), but I don't actually think that's true. I think, instead, that I am more of an equal-opportunity pizza crust person -- I like many different styles. I just think that Za has a particular style of crust that isn't to your liking, but that it's a good version of it's style.

                            1. re: litchick

                              I agree. I'm a thin-crust lover and somewhat picky. For example, I just made pizza using Russo's crust and was disappointed. I found it lacking in both flavor and texture.

                              I like Za's, and think of it as something entirely different from thin crust. It's definitely a bar pie, and it's not trying to be Neapolitan. The toppings are inventive and delicious, and the salads are excellent. Desserts are good, too.

                              1. re: litchick

                                Hey, if Za hits your spot, great. Enjoy. All I can tell you is why their crust ruins the place for me.

                                Say I served you a sandwich with imported prosciutto, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and luscious mozzarella -- on Wonder bread. Well, that's what eating at Za seems like to me. I can't eat their pizza without thinking how much better it would be if it was on a thin, chewy, slightly charred crust instead of a dough pillow that tastes like something pre-made and frozen.

                          2. I enjoyed reading that entire transcript! City government in action! Thanks for posting it.

                            1. Oh, I went to EVOO once and just loved it. Kendall Square is much easier for me to get to than EVOO's other location, so I suspect I will be visiting more often.

                              1. I just saw (on Craiglist) that the restaurants are hiring and currently are planning to open the week of March 1. As one who works next door to the Watermark, I can't wait!

                                1. So I've eaten at the new Za twice now. First time was first week it was open, second time was today. Food both times was very good. Best in what I like to call "South Kendall" (area from the Food Court/Coop to the river). Which, to say the least, isn't saying much. But the food *was* very good. Service, on the other hand, could use some work. I didn't mention the first visit, since anything can happen opening week. But now, a month in, I think I can hope for a "how is everything?" or similar, and I shouldn't have to beg for a soda refill, or for salt/pepper etc. I spoke with the hostess on duty who seemed to take my comments seriously, and I assured her I'd be back, because the food certainly warrants another visit.

                                  Edit: I tried to get rid of the Arlington location tag from my review and replace it with Kendall, but it wouldn't take.

                                  7 Replies
                                  1. re: L2k

                                    So are people going to the new location(s)? It seems like such a no man's land part of Cambridge, it really has to be on your radar to go to either of those restaurants I think.

                                    1. re: Joanie

                                      I've heard they are getting healthy after work traffic from the Genzyme / Kendall bio tech crowd. I was skeptical about the location too, but I've heard from a few different sources that they have been pretty full on weekday nights. Not sure about weekends, where this may be a bit more of a destination. OTOH, there are all of those new ugly luxury condos around there ... those people have to eat somewhere, right?

                                      1. re: yumyum

                                        You're assuming those new luxury condos are full, and that is definitely not the case yet. That said, the sign is big enough to see from Broadway, and there is always lots of foot traffic in that area on weekdays, so I expect they'll do OK.

                                        1. re: yumyum

                                          Plus for Kendall Sq, their location is more convenient in terms of the T than Hungry Mother, Blue Room, etc. and is walking distance (on a nice day) from Beacon Hill.

                                          Hungry Mother
                                          Cambridge, MA, Cambridge, MA

                                          Blue Room
                                          1 Kendall Sq Ste B2001, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                          1. re: yumyum

                                            Yes we do have to eat somewhere (New Kendall transplant here) and Za especially is very busy even on the weekends from what I notice.

                                            Have eaten at Za twice already and both times the food has been excellent and I enjoy the all local beer selection as well. No complaints about service either, very nice to have something good to eat since the area is quite barren in that department.

                                          2. re: Joanie

                                            It was more than half full when I got there at 1:15PM today. I was out in 30 minutes (the express deal works), and it was down to just a few occupied tables.

                                            1. re: L2k

                                              Been back twice since the above post, both times I sat at the bar, partly because it's easier to get service there, but mostly because the place was PACKED at 12:45PM or so (one was a Thursday, other was Monday). Yesterday I veered from the Za menu to the EVOO menu (they give you both) and had what I believe they called a Smoked Chicken sausage sandwich, on a soft round roll. Comes with cheese, BBQ sauce, and Jalapenos (I had it w/o the jalapenos).

                                              It was tremendous.

                                              Manager asked me how I liked it, I raved about it, he told me he is addicted to that sandwich. They make the sausage right there. Problem was (and it's really not a problem) there's no casing on the sausage, it's just one large patty of deliciousness (1" thick, 4" diameter or so), much more like a meatloaf than a sausage. But I bet "sausage" sells better than "meatloaf"!

                                              EVOO Restaurant
                                              350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                                        2. Has anyone been to EVOO for lunch yet? You know what you get with ZA (great 'za and salads...i think their crust is tasty and much better when it's overdone and crisp) but I'm curious what EVOO's lunches are like..both food quality and price point.

                                          EVOO Restaurant
                                          350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Misterie

                                            Check my posts above (and, I think, in the May openings/closings thread). I ate there yesterday, have started eating at the bar, so the service has improved. They offer you both menus (ZA, & EVOO) in both sides of the house, and I've had the chicken sausage sandwich both yesterday and when I was there a couple of weeks back. Delicious!

                                            Place was packed last time, slightly less so yesterday. They've set up outdoor tables now.

                                            Editted to add: Sandwich was $11, which is a bit steep, but it is good sized, and it comes with either very yummy fries, or their coleslaw, of which I've heard raves.

                                            EVOO Restaurant
                                            350 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02143

                                            1. re: L2k

                                              Thx, somehow I glazed over your last post due to all the za talk which preceeded it.