John Paul Lodge, Shooting Star Saloon & Zucca Trattoria | Restaurant Reviews | Salt Lake City Weekly
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Eat & Drink » Restaurant Reviews

John Paul Lodge, Shooting Star Saloon & Zucca Trattoria

Weber Weekend: Great grub (and great views) at Snowbasin and Ogden restaurants


What with such easy access from Salt Lake City to Big and Little Cottonwood Canyons and Park City/Deer Valley, It’s easy to forget what magnificent skiing there is in Weber County at Snowbasin Resort. That is, until you find yourself weak in the knees from the challenging terrain and spectacular Snowbasin snow. I found myself shaky and famished after a morning of maneuvering for powder stashes and headed up toward Allen Peak, the start of the downhill course at the 2002 Winter Olympics. It’s there that you find John Paul Lodge, with its mind-blowing views—and food that’s outrageously good, as well.

On a sunny day, you’ll want to grab a table on the wraparound patio at John Paul Lodge; when it’s cold, opt instead for a seat near the four-sided stone fireplace for warmth. The Lodge is named for John Paul Jones, an avid skier and early believer in the Snowbasin concept who was killed in World War II, before he could see his ski area dream come to fruition.

Although native Frenchman Christian Peyrin now heads up the excellent food and beverage scene at Snowbasin, there are still traces of his predecessor, Elio Scanu (now owner/chef at Zucca Trattoria) on the John Paul Lodge menu. Specifically, a big, hearty bowl of cioppino ($12)—an Italian-style seafood stew brimming with crab claws, shrimp, mussels, clams and fish, served with a fresh-baked, crunchy baguette for dipping. It’s a welcome surprise to see something as complex and interesting as cioppino in a ski lodge, particularly one perched at nearly 9,000 feet.

Other tempting lunch items beckon from the mostly Italian menu: Margherita and capocollo pizzas ($4/slice) from the wood-burning pizza oven, for example, or a big vegetable calzone ($11), also from the oven, with roasted eggplant, zucchini, onions, peppers, fresh mozzarella and extra virgin olive oil. For hearty appetites, I can highly recommend the pork braciole ($14): rolled, tender pork spirals served over penne pasta with a choice of marinara, Alfredo or pesto sauce, the latter of which is a winner. And, from the grill station, the burgers are awesome—each made with one-third pound of Brawley certified natural beef chuck, from California’s Imperial Valley. I especially like the “Milano” burger, with caramelized onions and Gorgonzola.

Then, it’s back out onto the slopes to begin working up a dinner appetite. The question—and a good one to ponder over apr%uFFFDs-ski drinks at Snowbasin’s Cinnabar Lounge—is whether to go with grunge at dinnertime, or something a little more upscale. Well, maybe both.

You could, for example, pop into Huntsville’s historic Shooting Star Saloon—Utah’s oldest bar—for a cold beer and a gander at Buck, the stuffed-and-mounted St. Bernard that serves as the bar’s not-too-lively mascot. If you’ve chosen to do dinner here, the headliner is the Star Burger ($6.25), a triple-decker burger with two beef patties, cheese and a Polish knackwurst sausage, to boot. Be forewarned though: The Shooting Star proudly proclaims, “We are not a restaurant!” So, don’t expect substitutions, special orders, vegan-friendly fare (the menu is 100 percent burgers) or even friendly service. This saloon is what it is, and has been since 1879, so don’t show up expecting arugula or truffle oil.

For that, you’ll want to opt instead for dinner at Zucca Trattoria, in South Ogden. Zucca isn’t just Weber County’s best restaurant; it’s one of the State’s best. Since I reviewed Zucca Trattoria after opening in late 2008, this restaurant has actually gotten even better—and, it was great then. A very talented local chef recently said to me about Zucca owner-chef Elio Scanu, “He’s doing amazing things up there in Ogden!” I agree.

Take, for example, Scanu’s recent “Black & White” Piemontese menu, which featured porcini and white truffle “creme brulee,” with parsley foam and white balsamic syrup ($6). Are you kidding me? Are we really in Utah? Or, how about potato and cauliflower cream with shaved black truffles and cacao ($10)? A sea bass entrée at Zucca was one of the most incredible fish dishes I’ve ever tasted. It was a roasted filet of sea bass with cuttlefish ink (black), spicy tomato coulis, roasted cauliflower and truffle cream—and, it was absolutely stunning. For something a bit more rustic, you might try stracotto, short ribs braised in Barbera wine until spoon-tender and served with polenta taragna (with Fontina cheese and truffles).

From the regular menu, starters like tuna crudo ($8) or steamed mussels with pancetta, white wine, tomato, garlic, red pepper and olive oil ($5) are excellent choices. Even better is spiedini ($5.50), which is mozzarella and speck wrapped in prosciutto, baked, and served straight from the oven in a terra cotta terrine. Or, perhaps you’ll be tempted by vasi—small, Mediterranean-style Mason jars filled with finger foods like olives ($5); chickpeas and mint, scallions and piquillo pepper jam ($5); and cipollini onions with Creminelli casalingo salami ($7).

But, even with all the outstanding menu options at Zucca, I inevitably default to the pizzas, which are some of the best around, cooked at 750 degrees in a Valoriani wood-burning oven stoked with oak. One of my favorites is the “Zucca,” which comes with tomato, Parmigiano, fresh mozzarella, basil, prosciutto and baby arugula ($12). By the way, on “Wild Wednesdays” pizzas are half-price and draft beers only $2. Should you just want to head home for supper, the new Zucca Market & Deli has sandwiches to take out, along with all sorts of imported charcuterie, cheeses, pasta, sauces and much more.

So I ask you: For a truly delicious day, why not Weber? 

Snowbasin Resort, Huntsville

7345 E. 200 South, Huntsville

1479 E. 5600 South, South Ogden