Known for their bready baked goodness, Zeppole is a popular place to have a bite of lunch. The fare is simple, but what they have is hearty, fresh and practically reeks of wholesomeness. Patrons can choose between sandwiches on Zeppole's own bread, soups-a choice between the soup of the day or minestrone-salads and several kinds of cookie.
Wedged into a long, narrow space on 8th Street, Zeppole has just a few tables and a narrow lunch counter corridor where customers march by and gander at the pretty breads, sandwiches and sweet sundries under glass.
Braving a constant gray drizzle outside, a friend and I went for lunch. The place was crowded and the line long, but it smelled deliciously of bread and soup and it was no time before we were at the head of the line, ready to place our orders. I decided on a soup and sandwich combo-a whole chicken salad sandwich on round challah bread (a traditional, slightly sweet Jewish eggbread) and a bowl of minestrone (which comes with bottomless bread). Five bucks buys a hearty meal at Zeppole.
The woman who took our order was cheerful and friendly, and when my friend expressed interest in the loaf of nice dense honey multigrain at the counter, she cut us each a thick "sample" slice. That kind of friendly and easygoing interaction makes regulars. The other woman working at the counter was just as friendly. All this, and they were able to keep the line moving very quickly. We took our trays and, since the tiny Zeppole dining room was full, popped next door to the adjoining Dawson's dining room.
I started on my sandwich first and found it delicious, with plenty of chicken and shredded iceberg lettuce (a chicken salad must), but the challah bread was the real accomplishment. Sweetish, firm but not hard, the bread set off its filling nicely. The soup was hot and likewise delicious. It wanted a bit of pepper-minestrone always does-but that was easily remedied. Better to need pepper than to have too much. With my soup, I had a slice of ciabatta bread and the slice of wheat bread we'd been given. The ciabatta was a perfect soup accompaniment. I wanted to slather the multigrain with butter, and not having any handy, took most of the big slice home to my husband. He inhaled it without butter (and, I suspect, without chewing), so I'd say that it, too, was a success.
I enjoyed the tasty food and bistro ambience of Zeppole, as well as the great service. I will definitely be back.
-Sara Beitia loves soup so much it hurts.