HOME > Chowhound > Pacific Northwest >

Discussion

Italian in and around Seattle

  • p
  • Peter May 2, 2005 08:05 PM
  • 27
  • Share

Over the years qualified recommendations for various Italian places pop up on this board, but I haven't seen any head-to-head comparisons. What is the best bet? Any region/price/classic-vs-crazy orientation is OK. (Just not Salumi, since I'm thinking of dinner, and not in 2008.)

Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
Posting Guidelines | FAQs | Feedback
Cancel
  1. b
    ballardfoodcritic

    The best Italian for dinner: Volterra, Osteria La Spiga, or La Medusa.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ballardfoodcritic
      t
      thee trouthole

      having just dined at lago for the first time last week, i cannot imagine it being the best italian restaurnat in boise, let alone seattle (no offense to boise).

      overlooked: la rustica

      thee trouthole

    2. s
      Seattle Todd

      Cafe Juanita in Kirkland. Northern Italian without the cream and red sauces but exceptional food. Had another great dinner there last night as a matter of fact.

      Unless you're looking for veal parmigian or fettucini alfredo (and I love those too!) it's the best italian in Seattle by a lot of folks' accounts. Best foie gras and rabbit preparations I've had in Seattle.

      The chef is up for the James Beard award this evening amongst some great Northwest chefs.

      Link: http://www.cafejuanita.com

      1. I will second the La Spiga recommendation, and add Cafe Lago. I'm too sleepy to do a blow by blow comparison but both places have been reviewed extensively if you do a google search.

        1. I think the only 2 restaurants that do authentic Italian food in the area are Cafe Juanita and Volterra.

          Since I live in Ballard, I was doing backflips when Volterra opened a few weeks ago on Ballard Ave. I love Holly's food but can't make the trek over to the Eastside very often.

          I've been to Volterra 3 times now and highly recommend that you check it out. Chef Don Curtiss is extremely talented & has a great following in the city- they have been busy since they opened the doors. I was just in on Sunday and Scott from Lampreia and wife were there. It seems like everytime I'm dining there, there is a local chef in the house.

          Be sure to try the Wild Boar tenderloin.

          www.volterrarestaurant.com

          1. Some of my personal faves (and keep in mind I'm not always looking for wow, just good food and service) are Sostanza Trattoria in Madison Park and Il Terrazzo Carmine in Pioneer Square.

            I live within walking distance of Cafe Lago and have to say I go there once a year if that. It's really overpriced for what it is.

            1. I'd second Cafe Juanita, and mention my own personal favorite in Seattle proper, the Swingside Cafe in Fremont.

              1. It's Cafe Lago for me. I absolutely disagree that it is overpriced. They use high quality ingredients and everything is incredibly fresh tasting, and the pasta is all homemade. I don't even like red sauce much at all anymore, and I love Lago's because it's bright tasting. That's the only way I can describe it. The pizzas are baked in a blazing hot wood oven and are ethereal. It's the lightest Italian food I've ever had, meaning it's not heavy like most Italian places and you don't leave the place feeling like you have a rock in your stomach.

                When they published their lasagne recipe in the newspaper a little while back, I thought "Wow, they're giving away their secrets!" But when you read that complex recipe, you know that only 1 in 1,000 people is going to attempt making it at home. I can make lasagne at home, no problem, but I wouldn't attempt to duplicate theirs.

                4 Replies
                1. re: KathyR

                  I absolutely agree with KathyR on this. Cafe Lago is well worth the money. Fresh ingredients, really tasty food and friendly, knowledgeable service.

                  I love the ravioli, the red sauce, the house-made pasta and the meatballs (meaty and flavorful, but also light and, dare I say it, fluffy). They also have one of the best antipasto plates I've ever had.

                  1. re: KathyR

                    Wow. We're 1 in 1,000 (or 1 1/2, since I just helped on a little bit of the job). As much of an ordeal as the recipe is (and it's not so hard, just time consuming), it's fabulous. Translates pretty well for a home cook.

                    1. re: KathyR

                      Having dined at Cafe Lago last night, I'd like to chime in on this one. I love Lago, I really do. The lasagna is sublime, though my husband and I concur that the tomato sauce is a tad too tomato-y. Otherwise, it's fantastic.

                      We also shared a pizza for the 1st time. I'm so hung up on the lasagna I have a hard time ordering anything else! But the pizza was very impressive. The crust was excellent (The best part, hands down). Great texture, great flavor, very thin. Just great. Toppings were good but not outstanding.

                      As far as being over-priced I think it is on the pricier side for what it is but by no means unreasonable. I DO think their bread could use some improvement. My other criticism- love the grilled eggplant but they killed it with too much garlic. I love garlic but it overwhelmed the appetizer.

                      On another note, I recently dined at La Medusa for the 1st time. Delcious, if a bit single minded. We ordered several plates and everything seemes to have the same basic ingredients: pine nuts, garlic, golden raisins, anchovy, red pepper, etc. Fortunately, they're great ingredients!

                      1. re: dandgchow

                        La Medusa specializes in sicilian dishes, and the ingredients you mention (along with breadcrumbs) are the building bricks of that region. It's a great little restaurant - unfortunately they americanize (read: they put too many unnecessary ingredients in the filling) the cannoli recipe which is a shame. Otherwise they do an outstanding job - even their pizza is good (puts Tutta Bella across the street to shame).

                    2. La Spiga and Cafe Lago are fine but their portions are for the anorexic crowd.

                      I vouch for Mama Malina in U District. It is as authentic as they come.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Bryan

                        No one would call me anorexic by any stretch, and I think the portions at both places (La Spiga and Cafe Lago) are just fine. The lasagne at Lago is huge. The pizza is very thin, but huge. The steak dinner is huge.

                        Mama Melina is average at best. Very standard Americanized Italian.

                        1. re: KathyR

                          I would call you anorexic Kathy! [as long as you return the favor ;-)]

                          Small portions at Lago and Spiga? No, they don't serve their food in troughs if that's what you mean, but it's enough to satisfy most normal humans.

                        2. re: Bryan

                          I'm not from the oh-I'll-just-have-a-salad camp either. I had dinner at Lago by myself the other night and I took home half of my roasted eggplant and gorgonzola appetizer and about a third of my linguine with meatballs--I was not stuffed, but very comfortably full and had lovely leftovers for breakfast. In the past, I've shared the antipasto with my husband and eaten the whole plate of pasta and was stuffed. My husband, who can pack it in if he wants to, can't finish the lasagna.

                          Mama Melina is ok, but not in the same league as Cafe Lago.

                        3. While it's not the best, and certainly not the most popular, Isabella's (Third Avenue, near downtown) has provided consistently good value every time I've been there. They've got a large menu, helpful and unobtrusive service, good-sized portions, very good food, and a large wine list with something in every price range. All things being equal, I'd probably prefer Osteria La Spiga too, but for a change of pace I thoroughly enjoy Isabella.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Scarecrow

                            Isabella closed a couple of months ago.

                            1. re: kiliki

                              I guess that's what happens when you're neither the best nor the most popular.

                              Thanks for the update.

                          2. While it's not the best, and certainly not the most popular, Isabella's (Third Avenue, near downtown) has provided consistently good value every time I've been there. They've got a large menu, helpful and unobtrusive service, good-sized portions, very good food, and a large wine list with something in every price range. All things being equal, I'd probably prefer Osteria La Spiga too, but for a change of pace I thoroughly enjoy Isabella.

                            1. when i lived in lake city, i was a regular at gaspare's which has relocated from lake city way - find them wherever they have moved (somewhere north end) and be amazed at decently priced food prepared with care and skill - the grilled marinated vegetable appetizer is superb and the chicken meatballs (when available) are like momma's. they used to do a wine promotion on monday that made it a double bargain

                              i heartily concur with the recommendation for terraza de carmine in pioneer square

                              though not a visitor for some time, i always loved bizarro in wallingford

                              1. when i lived in lake city, i was a regular at gaspare's which has relocated from lake city way - find them wherever they have moved (somewhere north end) and be amazed at decently priced food prepared with care and skill - the grilled marinated vegetable appetizer is superb and the chicken meatballs (when available) are like momma's. they used to do a wine promotion on monday that made it a double bargain

                                i heartily concur with the recommendation for terraza de carmine in pioneer square

                                though not a visitor for some time, i always loved bizarro in wallingford

                                1. I want to thank everyone who participated in this thread. It was really useful not only for what was posted, but also for the places that everyone chose to ignore. (Maybe that's the one thing that a thread like this can contribute beyond the usual random flow of reports.)

                                  1. If you are looking for a very quiet, romantic high end Northern Italian restaurant in Seattle, this is the one.

                                    We had a terrific meal at Rustica last night. There are only about 15 tables in this quaint restaurant and only about five of those were occupied. The food, service and décor were all top notch. With the exception of the Italian background music, it was totally silent.

                                    We could tell by ambient conversation that all the other tables were occupied by frequent diners who were clearly fans. These folks are in dire need of marketing.

                                    Allyn had a pan seared Petrole Sole (the fish of the day), perfectly prepared with lemon and capers with a side of vegetables and homemade pasta. The fish is ideal for those who like it light and mild. It was preceded by a spinach salad which was fresh, crisp and delicious.

                                    I led off with a Caesar salad which had their custom dressing. It had more garlic than is customary. It worked fine for me, but I’m not sure it was exactly a Caesar.

                                    The highlight was my Chicken Puntinesca. The spicy tomato sauce was superb and worked great with the nice Cabernet. Their wine list is marginal at best.

                                    True, things are tough out there in Seattle (and it was raining), but if they can’t get at least one full turn on a Friday night, then I wonder how long they will survive.

                                    Barry Shulman
                                    http://JetSetWay.com

                                    1. Perche No, Bizarro, and Brad's are favorites in the North End. Salvatore's, too.

                                      1. Brad's Swingside Cafe is one of my favorites for low-key Italian, and Bizzarro is very good as well.

                                        1. I haven't tried any of the restaurants listed here, but I really like Pasta Bella on Queen Anne. Their caesar is refreshing. It's amazing in the summer to sit out on the rooftop deck and bask in the sun.