There are good things and bad things about overly cozy restaurant seating, but when the food is outstanding and the stranger next to you is

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Best Southern-Italian Food

Volterra

There are good things and bad things about overly cozy restaurant seating, but when the food is outstanding and the stranger next to you is unable to stop raving (at length, with each bite) about her meal, it actually works out beneficially: mentally, you get two meals for the price of one. Volterra, a classy southern-Italian restaurant in old-town Ballard, will deliver two distinct delights, guaranteed. The first is an excellent menu, full of dishes featuring red sauces, truffle oil, fresh vegetables, and a brilliantly limited application of flavors per recipe. The second is endless free entertainment from the diners very near you. Volterra has limited space and makes good use of it, but perhaps included a table or two too many. Fortunately, a skillful and good-humored staff brings levity and a contagious sense of community to the setting, allowing the food to shine and the familial roots of Italian dining to glimmer. The menu is rearranged seasonally, but plan to order at least three courses—neither the appetizers nor the desserts should be missed. —Rose Tosti 5411 Ballard Ave. N.W., 789-5100

 
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