Nestled between Gold’s Gym and a health food store in Concord Plaza lies . From the outside, Roberto’s appears small, and maybe even a little bland. But if you step into this Italian establishment, you'll find that it can hold its own with even the biggest appetites. Chef Roberto Zanti is responsible for that.
Born and raised in Taranto, Italy, Zanti has always been driven by cooking. While Zanti said his mother was a fabulous cook, it wasn’t from her that he learned his trade. “Cooking has always come naturally to me. I am driven by the art of cooking," Zanti said. He took to learning on his own when he was young and incorporates his own flavor into the different dishes at his restaurant.
Zanti started in the industry here in the United States in 1988. He opened Zanti’s, which was located off Gravois. Years later, he and his wife moved the location to the where Roberto’s sits in now. He jokes that when the two later divorced, his wife got the restaurant, and he got the car. Zanti’s eventually closed, and he noticed driving around one day that his old spot was available. He worked quickly, and in 2003, opened up Roberto’s Trattoria where Zanti’s once was located.
Since Taranto is a coastal city, Zanti grew up creating lots of fresh seafood dishes. When asked about his favorite dishes to cook within the restaurant, Zanti quickly rattled off everything with fish. “I love to make seafood pasta tagliatelle all’aragosta,” Zanti said. He described it as homemade pasta with lobster in a sherry cream sauce. Zanti is known for his seafood creations, and there are quite a few seafood options on the Roberto’s menu.
“When you start with good quality ingredients, you end up with a good product," he said.
It is clear from watching Zanti interact with the customers that he loves what he does and takes pride in providing delicious Italian fare. “We have a lot of regular customers here,” Zanti said. In fact, he greeted and said goodbye to every patron coming and going, as if he had known them all his life.
While his personality outside the kitchen may be a bit talkative, he said he is very serious in the kitchen. “You can hear a fly buzz on a busy night in there. No one talks. We focus,” Zanti said. It seems that while some could take that as arrogance, it is clearly a matter of pride. Zanti said wants each customer to enjoy their experience in his restaurant and receive the best tasting and highest quality food he can provide.
That aside, Chef Zanti proves he is not all business. “After we are done in the kitchen, the party starts,” he said.