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Seeking great (or at least good) red-sauce Italian in Seattle

Are there _any_ decent red-sauce Italian places in the Seattle area? Some place that serves a good antipasto, worthwhile American-style (thick sweet tomato sauce, piles of cheese, pepperoni, sausage, etc. toppings) pizza and other comfort food? There seem to be a couple good Napolitan pizzerias, including my current favorite, Serious Pie, decent deep dish (Wallingford Pizza House), Salumi has decent food but is much too limited, there is nothing similar to SF's La Osteria for Northern Italian, and I haven't found anything for good East Coast-style Southern Italian. Help.

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  1. I would suggest the Pink Door. A chance for you to blend your burning desire for red sauce with a hidden Toulouse Lautrec fetish creating a unique cross cultural experience.
    Don't miss the bagna cauda.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Leper

      Thanks everyone, the wife and I will try working our way down the list. It is pretty pathetic to find yourself trying to decide between Old Spaghetti Factory and Buca di Beppo, which is what I was stuck with after trying several random non-chain places in town. Oh, and my Toulouse Lautrec fetish isn't really hidden.

    2. In terms of American-Italian comfort food, the Italian Spaghetti House in Lake City can't be beat.

      1. Old style EyeTalian at Salvatore, on Roosevelt, is fun. I had the best piece of Halibut of my life there.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mrnelso

          Straying a little from the "red-sauce" direction, but good, Perche No, in Wallingford, is quite good, as is Cantinetta, new, on Wallingford Avenue. Blocks away, on Fremont, brad's Swngside Cafe is a favorite.
          Salvatore just cracked me up. The service was attentive and professional, the food quite good, in an old-school sort of way. The waiters wore white shirts and black suits and the whole scene made me expect Bugsy Siegal to come out from the back with a fish wrapped in newspaper...

          1. re: mrnelso

            Perche No was one of the non-chain restaurants we tried. It seems to get great word-of-mouth and was packed a couple of times we wanted to check it out. When we finally got in (this was when they were back in Queen Anne next to Pesos), my wife and I agreed that the food was ok, not bad, but not great and not a good value. I thought the place was pretty generic. I don't mind when something outstanding like Lark or original Union menu costs a bit extra... but places like Perche No... not so much. My favorite Perche No type place in Seattle is Rialto on Fremont. Not quite the oldfashioned experience I was looking for in the original post, but an unmitigated pleasure nevertheless.

        2. Pizutto's in Seward Park fits the bill. I can't speak to the pizza, but the cutlets and pasta were right in the zone. My Trenton-raised wife approves.

          1. I'm a fan of Rialto for this kind of food.

            Rialto Italian Restaurant
            4307 Fremont Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103

            1. Serious Pie is not a Neapolitan-style pizza, not even close. More generally, why would anyone go to a restaurant and pay restaurant prices for "American-style, thick, sweet tomato sauce"? Why not just stay at home, boil some spaghetti, and slather some Ragu sauce over it? Why pay a restaurant to do essentially the same thing?

              9 Replies
              1. re: Tom Armitage

                I think Italian-American cuisine, when executed well, is a satisfying, homely cusine worthy of patronage, even if it is not subtle, refined, or an authentic expression of what one would find in Italy. A good "gravy"--think of what is referenced in Scorcese films--is several hours in the making and has nothing to do with Ragu.

                P.S. Tom- were you at Zoe last night (10-22)?

                1. re: equinoise

                  I am married to an Italian-American from Brooklyn. Her mother’s roots are Neapolitan and her father’s roots are Sicilian. My mother-in-law doesn’t serve spaghetti and marinara sauce. She serves “macaroni” (referring to all types of pasta) and “gravy” (red sauce). Her "gravy" is the type described as “several hours in the making,” although I don’t find it either “thick” or “sweet.” So, trust me, I love Mama’s cooking, and have nothing but respect and affection for good Italian-American food. But, please, tell me where in Seattle, outside of home kitchens, you can find this type of high-quality Italian-American cooking that is worth paying restaurant prices for.

                  P.S. I wasn’t at Zoe on October 22.

                  1. re: Tom Armitage

                    I'd give Pizzutto's a shot, for curiosity's sake if nothing else. It probably won't measure up to your mother in law's home cooking--and we also elect to cook Italian American at home too--but it is a competent local version of the casual, red-checkered cloth type of places we used to patronize back east. Also, IIRC, the prices are in the $8-15 dollar range for pastas and cutlets, so I think whether these "restaurant prices" are worthwhile may be a different question from what you might expect.

                    I haven't been to Salvatore's in many years, but I used to really enjoy it before I was a hopelessly unrepentant food snob.

                    1. re: Tom Armitage

                      The wording of the original query ("is there _any_ decent red sauce...") makes it clear the author has tried some local Italian-American establishments and found them as lacking as you have, Tom, and that he is looking for something more than boiled spaghetti "slathered" with Ragu. The much more 'Hound-friendly reply would just say that (in your opinion) Seattle doesn't have what he's looking for, and would certainly avoid insulting him for asking the question.

                      1. re: eight_inch_pestle

                        I didn't mean to be insulting, but the reference to "thick sweet tomato sauce" doesn't bring to mind the long-simmered richly flavored "gravy" that my Italian-American mother in law makes. As for pizza that has "piles of cheese, pepperoni, sausage, etc.," my suggestion is the Northlake Tavern, although, again, I don't think of this as an "Italian-style" pizza. I have no real expertise or knowledge about Seattle restaurants that make a good Italian-American-style red sauce, since this is something I make at home. I'm not even sure there's a difference between "American-style" or "Italian-American-style" red sauce and a classic Italian red sauce. Perhaps someone can educate me on the difference, if there is one.

                  2. re: Tom Armitage

                    It is close enough to some of the pizza I had in Naples. Thin, slightly charred, rigid crust, emphasis on toppings undrowned in sauce or cheese. Personally I find it to my liking with the caveat that the pie you get at busy times such as Friday or Saturday evenings is not nearly as good as the pie you get in the off-hours.

                    As to why I would go to a restaurant serving American-style Eyetalian, why, it is because I enjoy it on occasion. That is much the same reason I would go to any restaurant and pay restaurant prices. I like that type of food and that's enough for me.

                    Thanks for letting me know how discriminating your palate is. If I cared, your post would go a long way toward satisfying my curiosity on your particular likes and dislikes in pizza and Italian, much like the other folks who were kind enough to satisfy my curiosity about the availability of particular type of food in the Seattle area. Which availability I do care about and asked for in my original post.

                    1. re: SeaFood2009

                      As for Serious Pie being “close enough to some of the pizza I had in Naples,” we will have to agree to disagree on that. Pizza is all about the crust. The dough for the crust of a Neapolitan pizza is simply wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt. It is prepared in a tapered, thin style with a puffy edge (called the “cornicione”). The dough for the crust at Serious Pie was created by Gwen Grande, Tom Douglas’s bread baker, who intentionally strayed from the traditional Neapolitan dough recipe, following the lead of Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali at Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles. On one of my visits to Serious Pie, I asked about the dough recipe. I can’t remember the details, but recall that the recipe included such non-Neapolitan ingredients as cornmeal and olive oil, among other things.

                      See my post above (in response to equinoise) regarding my affection for good Italian-American food, including but certainly not limited to good “gravy.”

                      1. re: Tom Armitage

                        Serious Pie actually opened before Pizzeria Mozza. But that just be semantics.

                        1. re: Tom Armitage

                          Thank you very much for your comments. For me the pizza is more than just the crust, and I have generally despaired of finding commercial pizza in Seattle that is the exact equivalent of Neapolitan pizza, much like I haven't had quite the same bagels here as I've tried in New York. As for the sauce, in retrospect I should have used "rich" rather than "thick sweet". Lots of tomato taste not added sugar, but naturally sweet, whether the tomatoes are fresh or canned.

                          New York Restaurant
                          1626 Railroad St, Enumclaw, WA 98022

                      1. re: staffstuff

                        I love Salvatore's and eat there regularly. I don't think it quite fits the criteria here - there red sauces are not thick and sweet but more fresh tomato. I have never tried their pizza. The only thing I ever order off the menu is the clam linguini - everything else off the specials board.

                      2. I didn't think this place was particularly spectacular, but I think it may fit the bill of what you're looking for...

                        Vince's Italian
                        Renton, WA

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: soypower

                          Vince's is definitely in the East-coast red sauce category. When we were going (~5 yrs ago) we thought the S. Seattle location was better than the Renton one. By now it could have changed. We stopped going due to the drive and the food not being quite all that.

                          FYI there have been a number of reports of car break-ins at the Seattle location, so if you check it out make sure to clear any valuables from your car (and drive a jalopy if you've got one).

                        2. Funny this thread should surface again, a friend from Brooklyn was just raving about Casa D'italia, which is very much a red sauce East Coast Italian-American place. That's not my thing but it might be worth checking out if that's what you're looking for.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: christy319

                            I don't know that it's "rave"-worthy, but it's definitely a nice little spot that never gets attention.
                            The sandwiches aren't great, but the pastas are better.

                            They do a few interesting things, like a weekly game dish, and I really like the vibe of the place, 5-8 tables, italian groceries for sale on all the shelves,etc. I agree that it's reminiscent of a family run Italian grocery from NY or Boston.

                          2. Doesn't anyone go to Il Bistro anymore? Totally solid redsauce Italian. Romantic, lively, dirt cheap during happy hours. And Cafe Bengodi is a treat as well.

                            Il Bistro
                            93A Pike Street, Seattle, WA 98101