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Zappy’s Café welcoming clientele

Former co-workers at Chase on the Lake created Zita Howard’s sign for her new enterprise, appropriately, on a cookie pan. Working in the kitchen since a child, Zita is “putting her heart and soul into this.” Zappy’s is located at the Highways 34 and 64 intersection in Akeley. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

A new chef is behind the menu and stove at Akeley’s restaurant at the junction of Highways 34 and 64.   Zappy’s, chef Zita Howard’s childhood nickname, is now welcoming clientele.  The Akeley native follows in the footsteps of her mom, Carla Dippold, who cooked at Dahlem’s in Walker before coming to work for Bob and Judy Winner in the late 1990s.  “I was her mini me,” Howard said of following her in the kitchen, “always wanting to help.” At 5 years, Zita was washing dishes, cracking eggs and separating coffee filters.  “Through the years, I just learned more and more,” she said of acquiring culinary expertise.  When her mom went to work in Akeley, Zita bussed. “I was too young to waitress,” the 27-year-old said.  After graduating high school in 2007, she began working at Bullwinkle’s, where she honed her skills as a “line cook.”  Zita headed over to the Chase on the Lake in Walker in 2009, working with executive chefs. “I broke them in,” she said of her role as “second-in-command” sous chef.  

Three years ago, Zita was promoted to executive chef at the Chase.  “I was ready for a change,” she said of the decision to take the helm of the former Headwaters Café.  “I hemmed and hawed,” she admits. “I’d always talked about eventually owning a restaurant. Maybe it’s time,” she concluded. “I can’t see myself doing anything else.”  Zita, who works with husband Kyle and friend Anne Fenzel, – “I snatched her between jobs”- is out on the floor as waitress, as well, interacting with customers to get their opinions on menu items.  Biscuits and gravy has proven to be the pièce de rèsistance. “It’s all they order,” she said of customers telling her “it’s the best I’ve ever had.”  Breakfast is served all day. Zita’s apple fritter French toast is earning ahhhs and the Denver omelet is proving popular.  

Zappy’s has lunch and dinner features with soups made in house. The broasted chicken is “a hit,” as are the wraps and the third-pound burgers. Desserts are created on site with ever-changing goodies tempting the sweet tooth.  Familiar with gluten- free, vegan and vegetarian food, “I can accommodate,” she said of her customers.  Her flexible menu is based on diners’ requests. It’s working. “My customer base is growing.”  Married in August, “this was a wedding present to ourselves,” she said of signing papers Nov. 10, opening Nov. 27.  By summer, she’s hoping to acquire a beer and wine license.  “I’m putting my heart and soul into this,” Zita said of her enterprise.  Zappy’s Café is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and closed Monday.