I grew up in the kitchen of my aunt's Italian restaurant in the Midwest, mostly hanging out with the dish guys and sometimes plopping bread into baskets and rolling silverware into napkins. It was the 80s, and nothing my family's restaurant served was especially fresh or local. But everything was Chicago-style authentic, with lots of cheese, eggplant, and olive oil.
With new eateries in Ballard and Capitol Hill hogging the spotlight, it's easy to pass over mom and pop restaurants, out-of-the-way restaurants, or restaurants that are light on atmosphere. Opened about a decade ago, Abbondanza Pizzeria in West Seattle fits all of the above. It's family-run, sits south of the main strip on California Ave., and has an Ikea-meets-New Jersey aesthetic. So why waste your dime here? Besides the fact that the ethos of the place is nostalgic of now-defunct Italian restaurants where grandmothers make up the wait staff, I'll give you two words. Homemade gnocchi.The irony, of course, is that the word "pizzeria" is in the title of the establishment. And while the pies at Abbondanza (Italian for abundance) are a kid-approved, refreshing departure from ultra thin fancy pants to heartier East Coast style pies, they're nothing to pop your brain.
But the outstanding gnocci at Abbondanza are plump and beautifully irregular. A serving big enough to split is a more than reasonable eleven bucks. There's also penne, linguini and other classic pastas that can be topped with bolognese, olio, alfredo, or pesto. Best bets are the puttanesca with black olives, capers, and marinated artichokes, and a kicky tomato-based sauce mixed with ribbons of paper-thin eggplant. Too bad the mozzarella on top is closer to the Tillamook than Buffalo variety.
On a recent Saturday, a smattering of families and couples filled out the dining room. Hungry kids will be appeased by a bread basket brought out just after ordering. Adults will be moderately happy with a green salad topped with a few fresh veggies and dressing. But everybody will shut up and eat when a couple of huge plates of gnocchi make their appearance, then fast disappearance.