He actively displayed works in exhibition and gained respect of critics. He painted mainly genre works in oil and watercolor. In 1883 at Milan, he exhibited: Le rivelatrici napoletane; Da SantElmo, and Al Pincio; in Rome, the canvases Passa la vacca; La sofferente; Le cucitrici napoletane, and Il saponaro. In 1884, at Turin: Tempesta; Primo nato; Primo tuono, and the Zoccolaro of Naples; and in 1887 at Venice: In attesa; Al Redentoretto, and Lavoratrice di perle. La casa Camerini of Padua once possessed a banditore; and two canvases: I pigiatori and In medio stat virtus.
The turning point in Zonaro’s career occurred however in 1891, when he fell in love with Elisabetta Pante, a pupil of his in Venice, And together they traveled to Istanbul, capital of the Ottoman Empire. They were partly inspired by Edmondo de Amicis’ orientalist travel book Constantinopoli.