IF GOMEZ AND MORTICIA Addams lived in Seattle, they'd undoubtedly frequent Spaghetti Red's. It's in a basement— a daylight basement, but a basement nonetheless. You>"/>
IF GOMEZ AND MORTICIA Addams lived in Seattle, they'd undoubtedly frequent Spaghetti Red's. It's in a basement— a daylight basement, but a basement nonetheless. You enter through an iron gate and go down a long hall painted blood red. The whole place, on North Capitol Hill, is red. Very, very red. You've never truly experienced red until you've been to Spaghetti Red's. There, across from your table, is a huge painting of some Pope. On the wall beside it, a picture of Father Guido Sarducci. Spaghetti Red's
2355 10th E, 709-8744
Sun-Thu 5-10pm, Fri-Sat 5-11pm
MC, V; full bar "I think it's creepy," a friend said, which may indeed have been what the owners were going for: Spaghetti Red's opened last Halloween. I'll wager, however, that they were aiming for something closer to high camp. The music was my first clue: Big cheesy organ renditions of classics like "It Had to Be You" and "The Girl From Ipanema" stream endlessly out of the speakers like so many of Lawrence Welk's champagne bubbles. It sounds over the top—but as it turns out there's something strangely understated about all this schmaltz. I think of a place like Beppo near Lake Union, with its zillions of tchotchkes and zany performing waiters and overwhelming collection of kitschy male genitalia art in the men's room—don't ask—and suddenly Spaghetti Red's seems endearing and authentic in its camp inauthenticity. Then I find out it's owned by Jeff Ofelt, Wade Weigel, and Rebecca Olson, the folks who together or singularly brought us Rudy's Barber Shops, the Ace Hotel, the Baltic Room, the Cha Cha Lounge, and Bimbo's Bitchin' Burrito Kitchen. Now it makes sense. This team is clearly aiming to be Seattle's reigning troika of retro. With Spaghetti Red's, they're paying homage to the spaghetti house of every '50s mobster's fantasy, right down to the spaghetti and meatballs. And those spaghetti and meatballs aren't half bad. Mild and moist, a thoughtful foil for the zippy red sauce, the meatballs are quite satisfying. We ordered them off the "Mix & Match" list of pastas and sauces—choose spaghetti, capellini, linguini, penne, or bow tie with Spaghetti Red sauce, pesto, fiery red, roasted garlic cream, or garlic olive oil, in any combination—which at $7.95 with a house salad (add $3 for the meatballs) represented a pretty cheap date. The salad was a terrific little player, romaine and carrots and marinated onions in an enchanting sweet and sour dressing ($2.50 on its own). Linguine carbonara ($8.95) was another throwback to an earlier era of menus. Lots and lots of bacon, peas, black pepper, and cream gave this dish heft and sparkle, with none of the gutbomb richness that frequently ruins carbonara, and a drizzle of red pepper oil brought it into the appropriate decade. The seasonal greens ($4.50) I had ordered to precede it were fine, dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette and dotted with chevre and walnuts. A Caesar salad ($3.95) was not so successful; with its floppy lettuce and crumbly croutons and a surfeit of runny dressing it can only be described as wet. Indeed, a lot of what we tried at Spaghetti Red's was wet. When the bruschetta appetizer ($3.75) arrived—slices of La Panzanella's incredible bread served hot and soppy with oil, tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and beautiful drizzles of green scallion oil—we instinctively tucked our napkins into our collars. It was terrific but really, really . . . wet. I had ordered bread salad, which they informed me was no longer available; now I could see that the bruschetta was very nearly the same thing. (Note to owners: You might consider laminating your menus.) THE LASAGNA ($8.95) is another saucy little number, its sheets of pasta tucked in alongside grilled vegetables, mozzarella, ricotta, and parmesan, poured over with a copious and beautiful presentation of pesto, garlic cream, and marinara sauces. Mama mia. So dazzling is the presentation, it doesn't occur to you until midway through the meal that the proportion is off, with sauce overcoming substance by about three-to-one. Pity. Baked, stuffed chicken breast ($13.95) is similarly stinting, but this time on the stuffing. The platter is enormous, filled on this side with a garlicky toss of julienned vegetables, on that with a grilled triangle of tasty grilled polenta, and anchored in the middle with a lovely butterflied breast of chicken. Tucked beneath its golden skin is the wonderful stuffing—ricotta, spinach, and chevre, with a robust portobello bass line—but not enough of it. We likewise longed for more Marsala flavor in the chicken Marsala ($12.95), which came similarly accoutred with the polenta and the vegetables, and a whole slew of fragrant mushrooms. By dessert time we were filled to capacity—most likely the fault of all that La Panzanella bread that went down so easily before dinner, lavishly dipped in the herbed olive oil they poured into a dish at the table. Dutiful restaurant critics, we ordered dessert anyway. Someone named Mrs. Owens bakes cakes for Spaghetti Red's, along with a handful of other Seattle establishments; she's someone I'd like to get friendly with. The fudge cake with fudge frosting ($4.50) was good enough, a chocolate extravaganza, but even better was the smooth pineapple cake ($4.50) with a mile and a half of velvety coconut frosting. Better still was the wonder they call the red velvet cake ($4.50), which I'm having a hard time putting into words. Huge. Rich. Lavishly creamy. Impossibly moist. You know . . . wet. Spaghetti Red's also features plenty of wet pleasures of the cocktail variety, which together with the madcap retro ambiance and something-to-please-everyone menu would make this place a fine choice for a big party.