For a long time, the zeppole at Cane Rosso were the only versions of the Italian doughnuts I'd tried here in Dallas. Jay Jerrier's version has a lot of fans -- it's fried dough and sugar; how could it not? -- but I've always wondered how they'd stand up against competition, if only because it gives me an excuse to eat more fried dough. So when I saw another version on the menu at Palomino for lunch I knew a battle was brewing. It was time for a smackdown: Italian doughnut edition. Could Palomino's zeppole stand up?
Palamino, if you don't know, is in the Crescent Court, along with The Capitol Grille, Ocean Prime and a slew of other restaurants. It's a polished space, but the kitchen is not above a bit of whimsy, serving their zeppole in a white paper bag. I was ready to shake that bag like a dog shakes a cat but that's when the fun came to an end. The doughnut bags at Palomino are carefully agitated by the staff, in the most restrained and professional shaking fashion I've ever seen.
As for the zeppole, they'd be great if they'd been cooked a touch longer -- the insides were a little gummy -- but the cool mascarpone cheese and Nutella offered for dipping were a nice touch.
So you can imagine my enthusiasm when my waitress dropped off the white paper bag containing the zeppole and left me to my devices at Cane Rosso. I shook with caution, a little because had some time to consider the consequences, but more because the restaurant was crowded and I didn't want to upset anyone.
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The only fault I can find in these doughnuts is that they're dense. Shake this bag too hard and the'll fall out the bottom like the market on Black Monday. After dumping them out on a plate, I tossed the idea of individual dipping and dumped the warm chocolate sauce over the top of the plate. It was slightly bitter, like the stuff your mother used to bake with when you were younger, and took this dessert over the top.