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An Italian bistro with an Algerian twist and French accents? That is the uniqueness of Zouave’s dinner house, which opened last year on a quiet block of 65th St. N.E., in a storefront vacated by a popular former neighborhood eatery, Casa d’Italia.

Welcoming and unpretentious, Zouave (named after elite French Army units of North African soldiers) serves moderately priced, carefully prepared food crafted by Algerian owner-chef Abel Hadjal, whose experiences working in Italy have greatly informed his cuisine. In a small kitchen within the dining room, he whips up Italian and a few North African classics, perfuming the air with garlic and spices, and warmly greeting regular diners and newcomers.

The menu: Generous portions are the rule here, from the mixed salads ($5-$7) and daily choice antipasto ($8), to the pasta dishes ranging from the vegetarian penne primavera ($11.50) and the gnocchi (potato dumplings) in a creamy basil pesto sauce ($13) to such filling entrees as a rich, tomato-based seafood stew similar to a cioppino ($14.50), and a hearty chicken Marsala served with pasta and vegetables ($13.50). There are also daily appetizer and entree specials.

What to write home about: Zouave’s couscous Dahlia ($13) is a distinctive treat, a deftly spiced North African mélange of vegetables and either chicken or merguez (Morocco lamb sausage), served with a mound of fluffy couscous. Also excellent: the eggplant parmigiana, well-breaded and savory, cloaked in the tasty house marinara sauce and served over polenta ($12.50).

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The setting: The pleasant indoor dining area has about a half dozen small tables, which can be configured to accommodate larger parties, and there is summer outdoor seating on the back patio.

Summing up: A Zouave salad ($7), a couscous Dahlia ($13), an eggplant parmigiana ($12.50) and for dessert an order of decadently rich Tiramisu ($6) came to $42.54 and served two well.

Misha Berson:

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