Zola: A New World Bistro is a restaurant in State College, PA, the home of the Nittany Lions. Yes, I too think it is odd to have an actual town named "State College." And yes, the Nittany Lions are. . . Penn State, including the football team STILL led by Joe Paterno. (I think he's in his 80s now. Will he never retire?) I did not see much of the town or the campus as I was at a conference, but this restaurant was good.
What did I have? First, I had a sweet potato and pulled pork tamale. This appetizer was recommended to me by the waitress over the special appetizer (which involved pork belly, which I love, so the waitress truly had to be persuasive to get me to try this). She was right. Served in a banana leaf, the tamale was simultaneously quite spicey and sweet. The incorporated pulled pork was tender and the colors themselves -- green banana leaf plus orange sweet potato -- was incredibly fall like. And I kept going autumn and got as an entree some pumpkin ravioli. These were not soaked in a sauce as some pasta is, but served almost dry, lined up on a beautiful teal colored dish that was long and pointy at the ends. And, to make the fall festival spectacularly tasty, the dish had sage; even better -- it was crispy fresh sage. The pasta itself was pretty light and -- the pumpkin-y interior was right at the cusp of savory and sweet. Not perfect, but close. Alas, though, I had no dessert. Give me no credit, it was because I did not know the folks I was with well enough to go for dessert even when they begged off. So, I missed the trio of truffles I would have had. Zola definitely delivered new world tastes like the sweet potato and pumpkin. And the ambiance was warm (literally) and friendly. The service was attentive -- but not intrusive -- and the waitress humored some of our odder requests. They have, too, an extensive wine list, beer list and cocktail list.
All in all, the $40 it seemed like a bargain -- well, at least well worth it!
address: 324 West College Avenue
State College PA