When I pulled up to The Wild Zucchini Grill last Wednesday afternoon I was expecting a struggling startup. Only having been open a few months, I imagined that the little corner restaurant would still be trying to get its legs under it. That’s not at all what I found. I was surprised as soon as I walked in the front door, where I was greeted by a colorful twisting glass chandelier and rich wood paneling. It was clear right away that the owners knew what they were doing. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since the Wild Zucchini is the new creation of Steve and Tricia Stanley, the founders of Café Rio.
New customers may experience a bit of confusion their first time ordering. Though the process is laid out in 4 pretty simple steps, which are displayed over the long front counter on large hanging menus, most people aren’t used to a build-your-own-Italian bar. It’s a little like Chipotle meets Carrabba’s. It’s overwhelming at first, all of those choices of meats, sauces, and toppings, but it also offers diners a whole lot of freedom. There really is something there for any Italian craving.
I brought my mother along for the review, and we were fortunate to have Tricia Stanley herself help to introduce us to the process, suggesting her favorite combinations and a short explanation of how ordering worked. It wasn’t just Tricia that was helpful though, the staff members working along the counter were knowledgeable about the food and happy to help guide us through the process.
It goes like this:
1. “Order from the Chef” – or – Choose the type of food you’d like.
You can choose from 4 dishes: Handmade thin crust pizza, a pasta bowl, a chopped salad bowl, or a piadina (an Italian flatbread sandwich).
2. “Choose a Grill Item” – or – Choose your protein
The price of your food is determined by your choice at this stage. Ranging from $6.95 to $8.95, the choices include rosemary chicken, the house Italian sausage, Birkshire pulled pork, locally-raised “Kobe” steak, grilled shrimp, and a vegetarian option.
3. “Select a Sauce”
They offer the Italian standards: Marinara and Alfredo, but they also offer some tasty new alternatives: Diavolo (spicy tomato and chile), Red Pepper Aioli (flame roasted red peppers and fresh herbs), Spicy Pesto Cream (fresh herbs and chiles), and the Lemon-Garlic Aioli (garlic, fresh herbs, and a “hint of fresh lemon”). Some of these sauces are served hot and some are served cold. During this stage they also offer 5 salad dressings: a signature balsamic vinaigrette, Caesar, Spicy Pesto Cream, Raspberry Thyme Vinaigrette, and Spicy Thai.
4. Choose your toppings
They offer a variety of cheeses (from feta to fresh mozzarella balls), a selection of greens (the standards: romaine, spinach, etc.), and a wide range of toppings, like marinated tomatoes, pickled peppers, spring onions, asparagus, and artichoke hearts. The employees will also insist (rightly so, in my opinion) that you add one of their crunchy items like pumpkin seeds or crispy shallots.
Once you’ve completed your trip down the line, you have the option to order sides, appetizers, drinks, and deserts.
My mother chose a chopped salad bowl with grilled shrimp on a blend of spinach and spring mix with a combination of the Thai and pesto dressings. She topped it with carrots, cucumbers, green onions, feta, marinated tomatoes, grilled zucchini, and crunchy yam slices. She enjoyed it and tells me that she would go back. She was especially fond of the crispy yams, and she was glad that the employees had suggested them.
I tried a piadina (which comes with angel hair pasta wrapped in a thin flat bread) with Italian sausage and a blend of the Diavola and Alfredo sauces. I topped it (or rather, filled it) with romaine, spinach, tomatoes, chives and pumpkin seeds (for the crunch). Before ordering, you should know that the sandwich is really more of a wrap. This doesn’t take anything from the dish, but it’s a good thing to understand. I was expecting the pasta-wrap combination to be really strange, but it wasn’t at all. The sausage was delicious and the sauces created a great flavor together. It was warm and surprisingly filling for its moderate size. The flat bread was pleasantly chewy and the crunchy pumpkin seeds added a great texture.
Bonus: If you’d like to try a piadina, the manager likes to choose the chicken, add a mix of Lemon-Pepper Aioli, Spicy Pesto, and Alfredo. Top with feta, mozzarella pearls, bacon, mushrooms (if you like them), arugula, spinach, balsamic tomatoes, green onions, the house pickled peppers, and wontons for crunch.
We also tried the calamari appetizer, a side of their flatbread and both the Bomboloni and grilled chocolate mascarpone cake for desert.
The Calamari was, as promised by the owner, perfectly cooked and not at all chewy. It came lightly breaded with a crispy almost tempura-like coating, and was mixed with a few pieces of breaded zucchini slices, red and green peppers, and was topped with some of the house pickled sweet and spicy peppers. The accompanying Red Aioli sauce was okay alone, and the Spicy Pesto was tasty alone, but together, they made a great dipping sauce.
I was most impressed by the deserts. The Bomboloni (small round Italian donuts) were delicious, sugary, and perfectly crispy on the outside and soft and warm on the inside. The 6 bomboloni came drizzled with a truly amazing salted caramel and pecan sauce. The same sugary glaze surrounded the grilled chocolate mascarpone cake. Though I wasn’t crazy about the traditional cake bottom, the generous mascarpone top was fantastic. The dish was described (accurately) by the manager as, “chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate.” I would have loved to try it served with gelato.
If you want a traditional Italian dinner with a bread basket and the choice of soup or salad with your entrée, this isn’t the place for you, but if you’d like a unique casual Italian dinner or a hearty lunch, this is a good spot. Overall, I would go back to the Wild Zucchini Grill. I’d like to give their pizza and pasta a spin, try more piadina combinations, and I will definitely stop by for more Bomboloni when the craving hits me, which it is sure to.
The Wild Zucchini Grill is located at 496 N. 990 W. in American Fork, UT.
They are open Mon-Thurs: 11am-9pm and Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm.
You can “like” them here.