Phantom Diner

Zia's at Red Door – Phantom Diner, Central PA Magazine, April 2009

Written by The Phantom Diner | Mar 30, 2009 6:27 PM

Where there once was a nice, big airy open restaurant with lots of glass, lots of views and outdoor seating on the southwest corner of Second and Walnut in downtown Harrisburg, there now is, sadly, a bank.

Such are the vagaries of the restaurant business, even in hot spots such as the city’s “restaurant row”; I hate to see any restaurant go.

And that former eatery, which lived through multiple lives for more than a decade or so (including a Phantom phavorite, the gone-but-not-forgotten Politesse), had in its last incarnation as Zia’s Trattoria an attached wine bar called the Red Door.

Somehow, the latter survives. No, more than that, it thrives, and is now expanded and renamed Zia’s at Red Door.

(Don’t know why it’s not Zia’s at the Red Door, perhaps to save a little money on signs, menus, ads and whatnot.) Located just south of the old corner spot under a distinctive door-to-curb red awning, the place always held attraction for me as a nice smallish bar with a seating area of small tables and a good menu of small plates offered with a terrific wine list and an appealing choice of flights of wine.

It used to be an excellent downtown evening starter or finisher. The front of the house still could be. But now there are two smallish dining rooms past the bar area, each with maybe five or six tables, and each room is separated by a cubicle-like layout that offers some level of privacy and keeps down the noise. I miss the openness of the former Zia’s, and the newer windowless dining rooms feel more like winter places (there is some limited outdoor seating), but the new Door has other attractions.

There’s a good-size private-party room in the back and a very cool small, private, wine room with floor-to-ceiling wine racks. Its lone table can be reserved at no extra charge for those seeking a really quiet meal. The round table in the wine room can be reserved for two but fits six, maybe even eight, people in comfort. The Door’s overall atmosphere is urban friendly with modern décor, nice artwork, candlelit tables and a very accommodating staff. Dress is casual. Prices are fair.

The menu is basically the old trattoria menu, which is not a bad thing. There is a range of options and lots of pastas. The food is good, not great. But the kitchen is patron-friendly. You can pretty much say how you want stuff prepared.

This is a big plus at the Door, because many dishes are what I’d call busy: lots of sauce and multiple content and, unless you like that sort of cooking, flavors can clash and end up detracting from the basic pasta, veal, fish, chicken, etc.

Fettuccine Roma ($16), for example, just has, for my tastes, too much going on. Sausage, spinach, peas, mushrooms and roasted tomatoes are all tossed with the pasta in an herb butter sauce. Tasty, yes, but busy and rich. I suggest telling Chef to hold the sausage and add extra spinach to smooth out the overall impact.

I also suggest a few simple dishes to complement the more complex menu items.

Appetizers tend to be predictable and range from $6 for an order of garlic bread to $14 for a four-ounce filet over risotto. (I don’t know. To me, having a little steak before dinner, unless it’s tartare with a dry martini, makes little sense.)

Pan-seared scallops ($12) are nice to share with a glass of white wine. “Crispy,” meaning deep-fried, calamari ($8) is to be avoided — too heavy. But the mozzarella-and-tomato salad ($10) is nice, there’s a sesame tuna appetizer that’s wonderful, and the small Caesar salad (just $3 with dinner) is both good and a good size.

Pastas include penne with spinach ($14), garlic shallots and oil, which I recommend, and lobster ravioli ($21) in a light cream sauce.

There’s also penne in a traditional vodka sauce with prosciutto ($16), fettuccine Alfredo or carbonara, and homemade cannelloni.

House specialties include grilled sword­fish with scallops over angel hair pasta ($22), crab cakes with mashed potatoes and a veggie medley ($25), veal or chicken marsala (I prefer piccata), filet mignon ($27; add a crab cake for an extra $5) and something called veal or chicken “ferretti” (which is actually the name of an Italian yacht company) that comes with sautéed spinach, artichokes and shrimp in a white wine sauce over risotto. This latter, $21 with chicken, $24 with veal, is tasty but, in my view, would be better with more spinach and less sauce.

The Door usually has specials and, as mentioned, maintains a terrific wine list from its former life, including very good wines by the glass in the $7–12 range and flights of wines from $15 to $18.

Don’t misread my nitpicking. I like the Door and its feel, and especially its staff. By ordering what you want the way you want it, you can get a good meal here for not a lot of money. And that’s a good thing at either Door or the Door.

110 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg; street or nearby garage parking; full bar; takes major cards; reservations suggested; 717-920-0330;

Published in Phantom Diner

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