BANDOLEONE Bandoleone's broccoli, served with red peppers, garlic, and chile-lime sauce, is strangely addictive. One could make a simple tapas-style meal out of it, the

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BANDOLEONE Bandoleone's broccoli, served with red peppers, garlic, and chile-lime sauce, is strangely addictive. One could make a simple tapas-style meal out of it, the pulled pork carnitas, and the adobo-marinated quail skewers. The entrée menu—from which you can order small or large portions—is chockablock with seafood and meats that have been encrusted or rubbed with spices or nuts, yielding delicious results. Two examples: pepita-encrusted petite lamb rack and habeñero-garlic rubbed baby back ribs. If you're not in the mood for smooth, aged tequila (shame on you), peruse the list of wines from Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, and North America and finish the meal with a few nibbles from the great selection of Spanish and Portuguese cheeses. MOLLY LORI Serves: dinner. 703 N. 34th St., 206-329-7559. FREMONT $$ www.bandoleone.net BOAT STREET KITCHEN AND BOAT STREET CAFE If this issue were called One Favorite Restaurant, I'd use this space to write all about the French-themed Boat Street Kitchen (open for dinner) and the adjoining cafe (for lunch). I'd visit every day for a month, and I'd always find room for dessert because both the panna cotta with blackberry wine sauce and the Boat Street amaretto bread pudding are worth overeating for. I'd go on for three pages about crab cakes, which are starting to feel overused around here, but at Boat Street, they get paired with a banana and hot pepper confit that makes them anything but ho-hum. I'd also talk about what a nice surprise it is when the Oregon Country range-fed beef tenderloin, which the menu warns will be served at room temperature, arrives with warm tapenade. And finally, I would end by describing the service—casual and friendly but perfectly professional—and the space, exactly the kind I want to eat in: fresh, clean, stark, and quietly chic. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: lunch and dinner. 3131 Western Ave., 206-632-4602. UPTOWN $$ www.boatstreetkitchen.com BRASA There's just something so . . . Big about Brasa. Sure, it's the space and the ceilings—and, especially if you arrive during happy hour (5–7 p.m. during the week) and pass through the lounge, the sheer volume—but the thinking is Big, too. Co-owners Tamara Murphy and Brian Hill seem to plan, cook, pour, and create with a certain largeness in mind. Interesting, since their menu includes so many wonderful small, tapas-style plates to choose from. The menu changes daily, but there are some constants: The beef carpaccio has a fan club (it's the white truffle oil and fennel, making it both woodsy and minty), and the paella (not one of those aforementioned small plates, mind you) is rich, smoky, and, well, Big. Check out Murphy's Life of a Pig blog, accessible via the restaurant's Web site, for further evidence of substantive thoughts. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: dinner. 2107 Third Ave., 206-728-4220. BELLTOWN $$-$$$ www.brasa.com BRICCO DELLA REGINA ANNA The name is a mouthful and the location is a bit off-putting (it's in a new, sterile-looking housing complex atop Queen Anne Hill), but the guys behind the place, chef-owner Kevin Erickson and wine director Jason Crume, know their food and wine. The towering wine cellar, able to house three tons of the stuff, is a testament to that. The wine list touts over 90 different types of bottles; those offered by the glass change daily. At the time of this writing, Bricco had 25 such options. Of course, you'll need food to soak up all the vino, so opt for the sopressada panini, made with Salumi's pork-and-garlic salami, Macrina olive bread, and herb Brie. Entrée specials such as spicy meatballs or roasted halibut are available nightly. MOLLY LORI Serves: dinner. 1525 Queen Anne Ave. N., 206-285-4900. QUEEN ANNE $ www.briccoseattle.com BYBLOS DELI Situated between a Fatburger and a taqueria not far south of Bellevue Square, Byblos Deli is a clean, bright, compact oasis of Mediterranean and European foodstuffs in an area urbanizing more rapidly than the Denny Triangle. The shelves are stocked with products ranging from Syrian olive oil to Lebanese olives to Bulgarian sheep cheese. But the deli also has a couple of tables and counter space for those who want some semi-exotic fast-food sandwiches. Yes, there are falafels and gyros of various kinds, but the house specialty is a delicious garlic and chicken-stuffed pita. And there are offbeat paninis. The basturma features Armenian cured beef, and the soujouk features pickles and hot Turkish sausage. Wash either down with a cooling can of Turkish cola. Byblos is a stone's throw from the city's old Main Street shopping area and its 20-acre downtown central park, making it an ideal fueling stop for edge city explorers. KNUTE BERGER Serves: lunch and dinner. 102 Bellevue Way N.E., 425-455-4355. BELLEVUE $ www.byblosdeli.com CAFE BESALU Is there a better quiche in Seattle than the ones at this cozy hole-in-the-wall on a leafy street at the edge of Ballard? I've not found it, nor a more savory concoction to wash it down than a fluffy Besalu latte. The spinach quiche and the Lorraine quite avoid the gloppiness to which their ilk inclines in these parts; Besalu's resist your fork with precisely the right specific gravity, right down to the flaky crunch of the marvelous crust. The croissants make most coffee shops' look silly, and all the baked goods make your diet resolutions go right out the pretty window. There's a square checkerboard cookie that haunts my memory. I don't care where you live, your neighborhood bakery is Cafe Besalu. TIM APPELO Serves: breakfast and lunch. 5909 24th Ave. N.W., 206-789-1463. BALLARD $ CAFE JUANITA There are a number of northern Italian restaurants in the greater Seattle area, but the one that feels most grand and special is in Kirkland. When chef-owner Holly Smith took over the already popular neighborhood restaurant in 2000, I doubt the Eastside had seen venison with gratin of cauliflower, wild huckleberries, and blueberry vinegar sauce; grilled octopus with fennel, chickpeas, and green sauce; or rhubarb Bellinis coming. And I doubt any of us, just six years ago, would have predicted the little garden out back that produces a smallish share of ingredients for the cafe's mostly organic dishes. Resolve to do more neighborhood dining this year, and then remember that Juanita is a neighborhood, too. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: dinner. 9702 N.E. 120th Pl., 425-823-1505. KIRKLAND $$-$$$ www.cafejuanita.com CAFE PALOMA Roasted peppers, Turkish coffee, Gorgonzola, baklava, eggplant, hummus, pitas, garlic, scallions, cucumber, olives, tahini, lamb, mint, lemon. Can you see the color? Smell the spice? I swear the frigid Puget Sound (only a block away) morphs into the balmy Mediterranean every time I eat at Cafe Paloma. Inside, the homey wood floors and golden walls invite an afternoon of conversing or reading. Outside, the intimate little tables rival any Parisian sidewalk cafe for romantic inspiration, especially during the summer meze dinner special, which showcases snack-size bites sure to arouse all your appetites. SARA NIEGOWSKI Serves: lunch and dinner. 93 Yesler Way., 206-405-1920, PIONEER SQUARE $ www.cafepaloma.com. CARMELITA The menu is entirely vegetarian or vegan, the ingredients are seasonal and often from a local or regional source, and the cooking is deeply European, with long-simmered stocks, elaborate preparations, and complexly layered tastes and textures. On a recent visit, a salad of raw shaved fennel, spinach, and Parmesan was elegant and refined, a kind of pre-spring tonic. A side dish of tiny lentils with port and currant sauce wouldn't have been out of place in a Stockholm bistro—except that over there, a sauce so full and savory would surely require reindeer stock. A dish of sweet potato agnolotti, flavored in Old World fashion with allspice, was greater than the sum of its parts: Seared pears, onion petals, and rapini adorned the homemade dumplings. Every possible combination of these elements (my research was exhaustive) was exquisite. SARAH DEWEERDT Serves: dinner. 7314 Greenwood Ave. N., 206-706-7703. PHINNEY RIDGE/GREENWOOD $$ www.carmelita.net CASA D'ITALIA The servings are generous at this crowded, family-run Italian joint. But the clincher is the bustling atmosphere, with the cooking area right there behind the counter and a quirky patio out back that feels like another room. Frank Sinatra is on the walls and in the air. It's a genuine escape—to New York, if not Italy. You can dine as fancy as you like. Order off a menu board displayed and translated by your server (here you'll find not-so-usual cuts of meat and fish), or choose from more standard fare off the menu. They make the pasta themselves, of course. CHUCK TAYLOR Serves: dinner. 2615 N.E. 65th St., 206-525-7747. ROOSEVELT $-$$ CHEZ SHEA Let's not pretend that the view, and the dining room in general, isn't a big part of what makes dinner at Chez Shea so delicious. Washed in an orange glow, the lounge and the formal dining room are two of the most stylish yet austere walled areas in town. In the former, an à la carte menu offers a long list of snackable appetizers, or Alaskan salmon in Meyer lemon beurre blanc sauce if you prefer, and in the latter, a four-course menu, sourced from the Market below, is one of the best values in town. Can't tear yourself away from the half-circle windows and Elliott Bay on the other side? Go for quiet, unassuming chef Jeremy Bund's tasting menu, and revel in more than two hours' worth of French cuisine as funneled through the Pacific Northwest. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: dinner. 94 Pike St., 206-467-9990. PIKE PLACE MARKET $$$ www.chezshea.com THE CONTINENTAL The day this modest Greek diner closes its doors for good is the day the Ave finally loses all hope of redemption. An inviting, one-of-a-kind, family-owned business, the Continental has been filling undergraduates' bellies without picking their pockets for decades. All the Greek standards are here: souvlaki, dolmades, spanakopita, moussaka, plus some new vegan dishes. But you should consider skipping the main course at least once and ordering an array of appetizers to share—tzatziki, hummus, olives, feta, pita bread, and the most aromatic lentil soup this side of Mount Olympus. (The secret, according to Demetre Lagos, who runs the place with his parents, George and Helen, is an involved, multistep cooking process demanding olive oil and red wine vinegar.) At the end of the meal, the baklava is sweet, but even sweeter are the genuine smiles of the proprietors—especially that of Demetre, who, in a more just universe, would officially be appointed Seattle's ambassador to the world. LYNN JACOBSON Serves: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 4549 University Way N.E., 206-632-4700. UNIVERSITY DISTRICT $ CRÉMANT Just when we get our list of restaurants lined up nicely every year, some newcomer leaps to the front of the line and demands admission. It happened with Union. Now it's happened with Crémant. Opened barely a month ago by alumni of our favorite downtown bistro Le Pichet, it's a homey, fairly priced neighborhood brasserie in Madrona's 34th and Union restaurant row. You can make a full meal just browsing the appetizer items. The potted patés and rillettes are superb on their own, or as a prelude to heartier dishes like braised veal shank or moules maranière. You can get a roast chicken for two if you give an hour's notice. The crème brûlée is big as a pancake and ample for two. Virtually every wine on the carte is available by the glass. Service is discreet and efficient. Lovely. ROGER DOWNEY Serves: dinner. 1423 34th Ave., 206-322-4600. MADRONA $$$ www.cremantseattle.com DA PINO People often remark that shopping at Da Pino feels like shopping in Italy—I never know if they've actually shopped in Italy or not, but I can understand why they feel that way. Pino Rogano's English, as the saying goes, is much better than my Italian; ditto for his family members behind the counter. Still, the accents do make their lasagna taste that much more divine, and Rogano's little storefront does feel like it belongs in a small grape-producing town (well, except for the fact that it's on such a busy, terrible street). Rogano is best known for his sausages and cured meats; you've probably tasted them at Matt's in the Market or Dandelion. It's great that you can now get them directly from him, but keep in mind that Rogano is essentially a one-man band, and that by definition, his cured and aged products take time, so he may not have exactly what you're looking for on hand. Be open to the possibilities, and ready to sit down and stay for lunch or dinner, too. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: lunch and dinner. 4225 Rainier Ave. S., 206-356-8502. COLUMBIA CITY $ FILIBERTO'S CUCINA ITALIANA Thirty years ago, in this paper's very first issue, there was a review of this fine Italian restaurant near the airport. A few months ago, I returned and we reviewed it again. What had changed in those three decades? In the '80s, chef-owner Filomina Perry installed a wood-burning oven, but other than that, not a whole lot. Perry still disdains a canned tomato, the menu still includes an exhaustive list of Neapolitan dishes, the pasta is still made in house (be sure to get the bucatini, a hollow spaghettilike noodle), and the bocce-ball court in the back is still fair game. As much as I love the sameness, I'm awfully happy about the pizza oven. Perry's pizzas, on thin but chewy dough that pops and chars marvelously in the fire, are absolute perfection. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: lunch and dinner. 14401 Des Moines Memorial Dr., 206-248-1944. BURIEN $$ FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE Seattle's Russian-speaking community would go crazy without stores like this one, where immigrants can stock up on goods like caviar, pickled mushrooms, and smoked white fish. From Russia With Love offers a selection of prepared foods as well. The borsht here, loaded with finely sliced beets, is first-rate, as is what the Russians call eggplant salad. Get the one that looks like a spread and is bursting with the flavors of garlic and smoky pureed eggplant. To make a meal, try the stuffed cabbage or the chicken cutlet. Or better yet, pick up a bag of pelmeni, Russia's wonderful, meaty answer to tortellini, and go home and cook the plump dumplings yourself. At the moment, there's only one small table to sit at here. But From Russia With Love has just expanded. The deli and grocery store are in the Crossroads Mall, and the original location, on 156th Avenue Northeast in Bellevue, houses a cafe, open for lunch and dinner. NINA SHAPIRO Serves: lunch and dinner. 1424 156th Ave. N.E., 425-603-0701 (cafe); 15600 N.E. Eighth St., Unit K16, 425-401-2093 (deli/grocery). BELLEVUE $ GEORGE'S SAUSAGE & DELICATESSEN On one side, savory: pickled fruits and vegetables of all kinds, pâté, tinned seafood (not omitting baby eel). On the other, sweet: cookies, bonbons, just about every imaginable variation on chocolate and marzipan. George's is just a small square storefront room stuffed floor to ceiling with colorfully packaged European (primarily Polish) groceries. But then there's the deli case, a couple dozen meats: ham, bacon, salami, wursts, and sausages, all either imported from Germany or Poland or smoked out back. Ordering "everything" on a sandwich gets you cheese, lettuce (whole and shredded), pickle, cucumber, onion, tomato, mayo, and a thick, generous pile of meat. If you work downtown, trust me, they're worth the long uphill walk. GAVIN BORCHERT Serves: lunch and dinner. 907 Madison St., 206-622-1491. FIRST HILL $ HARVEST VINE After dozens of attempts to find a tapas place in Barcelona as good as Joseba Jiménez de Jiménez's Madison landmark, I only found one that could even hold a Txistorra to it (that's pork sausage). Harvest Vine's all good things in small packages: deceptively slight plates of caramelized garbanzos, impeccable scallops, roast peppers and roast hens, Galician octopus and potatoes (my personal obsession). The menu is intensely fresh—the food probably traveled to Seattle in more pampered fashion than you did. You pay for it, but it's worth it. Get there early. Despite the new room downstairs past the 200-year-old Spanish doors, seats can be hard to find. Get one at the copper kitchen bar if you can—these dishes are an art form for the eyes and palate both. TIM APPELO Serves: dinner. 2701 E. Madison St., 206-320-9771. MADISON VALLEY $$$ www.harvestvine.com LARSEN'S DANISH BAKERY Growing up in a state with a capital named after a jelly doughnut (or maybe it's the other way around), I was a little disillusioned to find that Seattle's coffeehouse culture didn't embrace top-flight baked goods, so easy to find back home. (Scones?! Is this some sort of sick joke?) But then there's Larsen's, seemingly airlifted straight from an upper-Midwest small town. Comfort food doesn't get any more comforting than this: breads, sweet or savory, and decorated cookies. Fantastically flaky Danish. Fancy and cunning desserts (eclairs, tiny layered cakes, a sybaritic strawberry- custard tartlet). Aromatic little buns with poppy seeds, raisins, and orange peel, topped with a cross of icing right off the flags of Scandinavia. And almond paste, everywhere there is almond paste. There's a maple bar to end all maple bars, lavished with richly buttery frosting. There are a few dowdy (i.e., authentic) diner tables if you want to linger with your pastries over coffee or milk. Sitting there, you half expect Mrs. Lundquist to drop by with flyers for next Tuesday's meatball supper at United Lutheran. GAVIN BORCHERT Serves: breakfast and lunch. 8000 24th Ave. N.W., 206-782-8285. CROWN HILL $ www.larsensbakery.com LE GOURMAND Bruce Naftaly is to Northwest dining what Alice Waters is to the Bay Area. He was the first chef hereabouts to pledge to serve only fresh-caught fish, and he's stuck to that for 30 years. He was one of the first chefs to insist on serving only foods at the peak of their season, which is why his salads are still more dewy-delicious than anyone else's. He was one of the first chefs to gather his own mushrooms, forage his own ramps, harvest his own sweet, tender nettle shoots. The more you know about his relentless perfectionism, the more daunting dinner at Le Gourmand can seem. But then Bruce comes out of the kitchen between courses and all constraint fades away. His enthusiasms are infectious, his cooking so here-and-now centered that its roots in classical French cuisine are hardly noticeable. Naftaly's wife, Sarah, is as slick a hand with the pastry cloth as her husband is with the veggies and game that make up the bulk of the menu, so save room for dessert. No way to recommend this dish or that, since the menu changes by the day; but the prix-fixe dinner keeps cost within reason, while à la carte can run up a startling tab along with a full and satisfied stomach. It's hard to believe you're in Ballard. ROGER DOWNEY Serves: dinner. 425 N.W. Market St., 206-784-3463. BALLARD $$$ LE PICHET If your exposure to French food is limited to pommes frites and chocolate mousse, prepare yourself for the earthier, more pungent flavors of French country cooking. At Le Pichet (named after earthenware pitchers used to serve wine), you'll experience unusual but beguiling pairings of ingredients like marinated olives, liver, oysters, duck gizzards, and Brussels sprouts. It's entirely possible your salad will turn up with a fried egg in the middle. But don't you dare think this place is too sophisticated for you. Nestled in a charming Belltown storefront, with a quaint black-and-white tile floor and casual wooden tables and chairs, there is no more welcoming restaurant in the city. LYNN JACOBSON Serves: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 1933 First Ave., 206-256-1499. BELLTOWN $$-$$$ www.lepichetseattle.com LE P'TIT BISTRO Le P'tit Bistro recently snuck into the Belltown restaurant scene, bringing a little bit of French flair to condo gulch. Le P'tit isn't a mere homage to French cuisine, mind you. This bistro is the real deal. It's fun to watch new customers read the menu for the first time: The eyes widen, and then there is an audible gasp. With over a dozen savory crepes, sandwiches, salads, and traditional French entrées from which to choose, ordering lunch or dinner becomes a formidable task. Oh, happy, happy task! The salade niçoise is nearly perfect, topped with a tingling, tart vinaigrette that seems as effervescent as champagne. Each crepe is its own work of art. Cheeses mingle perfectly with meats or vegetables (the vegetarienne is a particular delight, even to an avowed omnivore), and magically, the crepes never arrive soggy or torn. Save room and energy for dessert because, well, choosing between the handmade French pastries and cakes and sweet crepes is as vexing and tiring as what you just endured when you ordered your entrée. You might want to make that espresso a double. KERRY MURPHY Serves: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 2616 Second Ave., 206-728-4141. BELLTOWN $-$$ www.leptitbistro.com NIKOS GYROS This cozy Greek place is sandwiched between a barbershop and a lawyer's office in beautiful Magnolia Village—from bob to kabob to nabob. Better yet, to the Serpanos family's mouth-watering gyros, the $3.95 meal in a pita. The corner spot has a big menu for a little 40-seat room: a dozen gyros (say "yee-rose") variations including veggie, meatball (keftedes), and link sausage (loukaniko); there are another dozen salads (try the "village," if you want a touch of everything); and a column of specialty plates (one combines four souvlaki meats and is under $10). Behind the scenes is longtime Seattle restaurateur George Serpanos. At his former belly- dancing hangout, Georges' Tops 24 on First Hill, I was remembered for once passing out on retsina while standing up, frozen in time. Here, beer and wine are served with almost no finger pointing. RICK ANDERSON Serves: lunch and dinner. 2231 32nd Ave. W., 206-285-4778. MAGNOLIA $ OSTERIA LA SPIGA A meal at Osteria La Spiga is composed of three primary ingredients: wheat, water, and care. It begins with complimentary wedges of house-baked flatbread— who knew that simple white flour had such a distinctive, subtle taste? For each dish, the kitchen assembles a short list of the best possible ingredients and does the absolute minimum to them. There are carefully balanced salads, an artfully chosen cheese plate, daily soup specials, and even a grilled piece of meat or two. But the expansive heart of the menu is the homemade pasta, where simple ingredients align with purity of execution. Perfect, crinkle-edged ravioli are filled with winter squash or spinach; spaghetti or linguine is dressed in pesto, a truffled cream sauce, or an earthy toss of mushrooms and slivered prosciutto. So this is what all the fuss over "Italian peasant cooking" is about. SARAH DEWEERDT Serves: dinner. 1401 Broadway E., 206- 323-8881. CAPITOL HILL $-$$ THE OWL 'N THISTLE IRISH PUB You might stumble upon the south Post Alley entrance to the Owl 'N Thistle quite by chance, or sample the food as an afterthought on a night out with your mates—subsequent visits will likely be less accidental. The curry fries, a large plate of hand-cut steak fries served with a bowl of perfectly spiced curry gravy, are fantastic and excellent for sharing. Comfort food at its finest, colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes mixed with bits of cabbage, topped with a heavenly baked-on cheddar crust. A fresh side salad and brown soda bread round out this deliciously satisfying meal. For something meatier, you can't go wrong with the shepherd's pie, and the fish and chips are beyond compare. Check the chalkboards for daily specials. A great deal of care goes into bringing a variety of nonmenu choices, which makes them pretty special indeed. AMY NIEDRICH Serves: lunch and dinner. 808 Post Alley, 206-621-7777. DOWNTOWN $ www.owlnthistle.com PAIR A friend I don't talk to often enough but whom I stay in touch with, sort of, through the reviews on these pages grabbed my arm last time I saw her and thanked me for "telling her" about a dish at this fantastic European small-plates restaurant. The dish couples pork, simmered slowly in a sauce of cinnamon and salty Kalamata olives, with creamy polenta, and it's absolutely worth her gratitude—although it's due Felix and Sarah Penn, not me. While writing this, I checked Pair's Web site, and found that it's not on the menu at the moment, but I'm sure it'll be back. Go anyway, because while you're waiting, you can lean in and share their delicately crispy potato and leek gratin, herb gnocchi with smoked trout, and exceptional Brussels sprouts with someone you want to whisper with. LAURA CASSIDY Serves: dinner. 5501 30th Ave. N.E., 206- 526-7655. ROOSEVELT $-$$ www.pairseattle.com PHOENECIA At first glance, Phoenicia doesn't appear to have homey aspirations. The Mediterranean menu, the warm, candle-lit room, and the sweeping views of the Sound and Alki Beach would seem to make this West Seattle mainstay apropos for a date or occasion experience. While the place is a great spot for either, it is also magically homey and comfortable, thanks to owner-waiter Hussein's warm, chatty personality. Torn about what to order? Hussein will gently and persuasively tell you what you need to eat, and will deliver it to your table with love. The meat and fish dishes vie for center stage, with complex flavors imbued by seemingly dozens of spices, but no entrée will disappoint. KERRY MURPHY Serves: dinner. 2716 Alki Ave. S.W., 206- 933-6550. WEST SEATTLE $$ PIES AND PINTS Sometimes, when we are coming home from a dinner that was less than we had hoped, one of us will say, "We should have gone to Pies and Pints." Not because it is the Miss Congeniality of restaurants, but because we know it will do what it promises. Like the name says, they've got British pub-style pies and pints: nice pastry surrounding meat (their beef is from Misty Isles on Vashon Island) or a tasty collection of vegetables; a decent beer list; a handful of ciders; and some generous pours of decent wines. Add a collection of sides (salads, soup, fries) and a couple of eccentric desserts (Guinness chocolate cake or chocolate peanut butter tart), and Pies and Pints is a reliable friend in a peripatetic world. SANDRA KURTZ Serves: lunch (Saturday only) and dinner. 1215 N.E. 65th St., 206-524-7082. ROOSEVELT $ www.piesandpints.com PINK DOOR Did someone order meatballs? Plates are big and pleasing at Jacqueline di Roberto's Pink Door. Kevin P. Casey The first time I went to the Pink Door, I felt like I'd been inducted into some sort of secret club. No signs, no arrows to point the way. Indeed, my friend in the know simply slipped through an unmarked, rose-colored entrance (a pink door!) off Post Alley. Amid cool Bohemian and businessy diners, a woman with sparkly underwear over a velour suit, à la Superman, sipped a martini at the bar; she reflected hundreds of times in antique mirrors and eclectic, circa-1920 chandeliers as she suddenly perched on a trapeze above my head and began twirling. The evening's entertainment! With one bite of the homemade potato gnocchi, I understood why the restaurant/cabaret needed no advertising. What appeared to be a scant amount of plain red vodka sauce had the flavor of a million tomatoes. The Pink Door, I've since learned, casts every (seasonal, often local, and organic) ingredient in its ideal Italian-American plates, and pitch-perfect chicken and seafood regularly steal the spotlight. SARA NIEGOWSKI Serves: lunch and dinner. 1919 Post Alley, 206-443-3241. PIKE PLACE MARKET $$ www.thepinkdoor.net REMO BORRACCHINI'S Founded in 1922 by an immigrant couple from Italy, Borracchini's is known primarily for its custom cakes and baked goods. But if you don't wander past the frosted birthday cake counter, you'll miss two-thirds of what makes Remo's so versatile and indispensable. It's chock-full of jars of native Mediterranean condiments, cheeses, sparkling water, and wines, so full-scale shopping is entirely possible for those with a palate that veers sharply toward Southern Europe. And a fresh grilled salami-and-provolone panini sandwich will set you back a meager $1.49 at the deli counter. Evidently, Remo's prices many of its items as though it's still 1922, which is a welcome respite from Seattle's annoying "It Town" inflationary curve. MIKE SEELY Serves: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 2307 Rainier Ave. S., 206-325-1550. RAINIER VALLEY. 4737 California Ave. S.W., 206-935-8944. WEST SEATTLE $ www.nowcake.com SALUMI You no longer have to trek down to the border between Pioneer Square and the ID and stand in line to purchase Armandino Batali's world-class cured meats, but the heavenly sandwiches—homemade meatball, culatello, oxtail—are still worth sending the office assistant for. But the unique glory of Salumi, to be enjoyed only on-site, belongs to the daily sit-down specials. Each is a little masterwork of country-style Italian cooking: bean and vegetable soups, lasagne, meat cannelloni, and more, perfect for devouring at the communal table in the back of the shop. There's nothing nicer than chowing down at Salumi, even if it is only open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, nothing except taking a new friend there for the first time and watching their eyes light up. ROGER DOWNEY Serves: lunch and dinner (by special arrangement). 309 First Ave. S., 206-621-8772. PIONEER SQUARE $-$$ www.salumicuredmeats.com THE SPANISH TABLE If you aren't living in a sunny place, at least you can eat like you are. The food at the Spanish Table is simple and evocative of the Iberian Peninsula: piquant gazpacho (in season); sweet piquillo peppers; queso manchego, a robust hard cheese; and my personal favorite, tortilla español. The latter is a potato omelet, but that's like saying a madeleine is a cookie. How Spanish chefs take such simple ingredients as potatoes, onion, and eggs, and produce such a flavorful dish is a great mystery. Contemplate it as you sit at the deli's counter, eating while surrounded by the gorgeous ceramics that are the store's main line of business. GEORGE HOWLAND JR. Serves: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 1427 Western Ave., 206-682-2827. DOWNTOWN $ www.spanishtable.com VIA TRIBUNALI Dust off your Italian dictionary, 'cause you'll need it to navigate Via Tribunali's menu. Oh, and bring the crossword puzzle, because there's usually a wait for a table and they don't take reservations. You'll have plenty of time to check out the high- ceilinged place (where imposing wrought-iron chandeliers hang) and the easy-on-the-eyes servers. Once seated in one of the church-pew-like booths or at a table, get the piazza Dante with provola (smoked cheese), tomatoes, arugula, and prosciutto crudo, or the quattro Stagioni topped with prosciutto, salami, mushrooms, and mozzarella. All ingredients for the pizzas are imported—these are traditional, thin-crusted, wood-fired pies much like what you would find in Naples. A smattering of important looking symbols at the bottom of the menu says as much, we think. MOLLY LORI Serves: dinner. 913 E. Pike St., 206-322-9234. CAPITOL HILL $$ VIOS Step through Vios' door and leave Capitol Hill altogether. Inside, find a European marketplace, deli, and restaurant that'll have you longing for the Grecian coast depicted in the overhead lanterns illuminating old European postcards. By day, Vios is a marketplace and deli, serving exquisite sandwiches and salads. The seared tuna sandwich features perhaps the most perfectly seasoned, crisp-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside fish you'll ever taste, accompanied by tomatoes, capers, and mint between slices of an extra-fresh baguette. Other lunch offerings include chicken or lamb gyros, an eggplant sandwich, a meatball sandwich, and an ent

 
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