Seattle's Alluring Spots for Fine Dining and Wining, Italian-Style
By Corinne Whiting
Seattle Local Expert
Sometimes, the urge to have Italian food strikes, and nothing satisfies until you get it. Crusty bread dipped in olive oil followed by a heaping bowl of hand-made pasta topped with fresh herbs, colorful vegetables and finely-grated cheese; what truly can compare? When this craving strikes, you can count on 10Best to point you in the direction of Seattle's most recommended Italian restaurants. We understand the desire to have a great meal, and we work hard to bring you the top places to eat in Seattle. We vet restaurants carefully for quality, and when we recommend popular eateries like Assaggio Ristorante or tell you that Serafina Osteria & Enoteca gets good reader feedback, you can believe it. We'll make sure you get - and eat - what's best. Follow this list of ten fantastic spots to virtually travel to the lovely country of Italy, where chefs have made an art form out of pleasing others' senses. These venues not only expose diners to Italian flavors on their plates, but also in the sounds and sights that they will absorb inside, thanks to each unique ambience. We recommend showing up hungry and thirsty and, above all else, willing and ready to enjoy the finer things in life. Buon appetito!
If lines are an indication of the quality of the cuisine here (and they certainly are, in our opinion), then you can expect a wonderfully authentic meal. The relaxed restaurant Cafe Lago has been a favorite in this area for many years, thanks in part to the light, homemade lasagna that has diners coming back for more. Their wood-fired pizzas are also legendary and boast crisp crusts and savory toppings. The antipasti, which come in substantial portions and ideal to split among groups, attract diners with their terrific flavors, as do the house-made pastas, including the raviolis and the gnocchi. (206-329-8005)
Named for the creek it rests beside, this fantastic restaurant is influenced by Italian cuisine, although it's not the red-sauce-and-cheese variety. Instead, dishes are more refined, featuring first-rate ingredients and careful preparation. Among the offerings you'll find are silky foie gras, sweetbreads in marsala sauce, seared yellowfin tuna and bacon-wrapped roasted rabbit. Accompanying them are such delicacies as fava beans, polenta, asparagus, artichokes, and a medley of earthy mushrooms. Desserts follow suit and include several Italian classics: tiramisu, panna cotta, and berries laced with balsamic vinegar. The excellent wine list offers a perfect accompaniment, whether it be an Italian or a regional vintage. (425-823-1505)
Intimate, romantic and adorned with Renaissance artwork, Assaggio brings you the best of Italy without your ever having to leave Seattle! Owned and managed by Mauro Golmarvi, the restaurant guarantees diners the best Italian fare. The menu offers a range of pasta, chicken, veal and seafood entrees (among other options), but must-try dishes include pappardella bosciaola (pasta flavored with mushrooms, Marsala and Barolo wine) and agnello osso buco, the traditional favorite made with lamb instead of veal. Marco's frequent trips to Italy also ensure that a wealth of Italian wines are available to complement any dish, so be prepared to get wined and dined. (206-441-1399)
In Belltown, Ethan Stowell has done it once again by wowing diners at his Italian gem Tavol?ta. Here, pasta reigns--from rigatoni to casarecce, conchiglie to linguini. A restaurant whose name means "to gather around a table," Tavol?ta is an ideal space for large parties and private events. Monthly Sunday Feast dinners mean four-course family meals served at the communal table (that seats up to 26 diners), perfectly embodying the venue's philosophy. Enjoy nightly happy hours (from 5 to 7 p.m.) as well as dishes like brushcetta and salumi boards to start, rigatoni and potato gnocchi for pasta dishes, salmon and beef short ribs as entrees and grilled carrots as a side. (2068388008)
Palomino Euro Bistro
Well-attended by patrons of all sorts, this popular destination in the heart of the business district is perennially full and has even received a vote for "Best Downtown Lunch" by Seattle Magazine. Capitalizing on its combination of Mediterranean and Northwest fare, the wide-ranging menu features paella, fire-roasted garlic chicken, poached seafood ravioli, wild mushroom risotto, and fresh Pacific salmon. You'll also find a good selection of both traditional and exotic pizzas. Depending on your mood and your time constraints, choose to partake in the dining room, in the large bar area, or in the cafe, which offers the quickest service. (206-623-1300)
Named after the Tuscan hill town where the owner/chefs met, Volterra brings an authentic slice of Italy to the Northwest. Although the tiled dining room may get noisy, you'll be too enthralled by the signature Tuscan Limoncello Rosemary Drop cocktail to notice. Careful attention to cooking and presentation of fine ingredients like truffles, homemade pastas, wild boar, and beef tenderloin result in dish after luscious dish. Savory orechiette in lamb ragu, accompanied by steamed asparagus in lemon-cheese sauce, is a favorite. Desserts include a rich tiramisu and chestnut panna cotta. The knowledgeable staff won't let the largely Italian wine list get the better of you. (206-789-5100)
Il Terrazzo Carmine
The romantic atmosphere, enhanced by classical guitar music, may be the first thing you notice upon entering this venue. The second will surely be the aroma of perfectly-prepared Italian dishes. Excellent service and wonderful selections hint at the restaurant's popularity, which extends to celebrities and local residents alike. The menu features a range of pastas and antipasti, along with such delectable entrees as roasted duck, rack of lamb, beef tenderloin, fresh fish and even sweetbreads. Go prepared to savor this wonderful dining experience! Complimentary valet parking is available after 5pm. Outdoor seating is also a draw in Seattle's warmer months. (206-467-7797)
Polished woods and hand-crafted detailing characterize this lovely restaurant, which features an open kitchen, along with upstairs and downstairs dining rooms (and some patio seating in warmer months). Frequented by professionals at lunch, Tulio is known for its authentic cuisine and attentive service. The menu includes such treats as salmon ravioli, sweet-potato gnocchi with sage butter, pepper-crusted roast pork loin, and marinated Washington lamb sirloin. You'll also find pizzas and calzones on the lunch menu. Tulio makes the perfect start to any special evening occasion, especially when combined with an evening at one of the several nearby theaters. At times, you may even spot a celebrity! (206-624-5500)
The Pink Door
Funky and hip, this Italian eatery features rustic food and boasts live entertainment in the adjacent lounge. The interior has a certain bohemian charm, but the best area to dine is on the rooftop deck, which affords a magnificent view of Puget Sound. To start a meal, begin with bruschetta or the antipasto plate of savory morsels. Entrees, then, include Tuscan grilled chicken, gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted pork loin, and Muscovy duck. You'll find, in fact, a range of pastas and, also, a daily risotto special that's usually a great bet! Comforting desserts include such fare as bread pudding and apple crisp. (206-443-3241)
Serafina Osteria & Enoteca
Comfortable and unpretentious, Serafina has been a Seattle favorite for years. This charming outpost has become one of the main culinary draws of the Eastlake neighborhood, and the adjoining Cicchetti Kitchen and Bar is an excellent place for happy hour cocktails as a pre-cursor to your dinner. Serafina's cuisine draws on rustic traditions of the Italian countryside and is eminently satisfying. Representative dishes include buckwheat pasta, slow-cooked lamb shanks, braised rabbit, homemade veal meatballs, pumpkin-leek ravioli and a ragu of duck, veal, and pork. You'll also find steamed mussels, rich sausages and wild-mushroom risotto. Dessert options include a luscious chocolate-hazelnut torte, sweet profiteroles and a homey rhubarb crisp. (206-323-0807)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China. Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.