The Deets : This low-lit Belltown>"/>
The Eats: Tavolata, 2323 Second Ave., 838-8008. Rustic Italian cuisine including house made pasta.
Cheese, glorious cheese!
The Deets: This low-lit Belltown hideaway isn't the cheapest place in town for an Italian dinner, but it sure is swanky. The waitstaff is hip, the ambiance is warm and urban, and even on a Tuesday night, the dining room bustles with activity. The bar is a great place for a craft cocktail--and its multiple mirrors make for surreptitious people watching--but if you're in for a meal, forgo dining and the long communal table for a cozy wood booth along the wall, if you can get one.
The Beets: Italian food is well known for heavy sauces and rich flavors, but it's also incredibly adaptable to the vegetarian palate, and Ethan Stowell's stripped-down approach to Italian cooking--unlike similar restaurants--brings quality options to the table.
Its menu changes frequently, but during a recent visit a nice selection of small plates, salads, and soups were available as vegetarian starters. Toby and I shared the burrata (hand-spun mozzarella stuffed with curd) for a first course and its accompaniments of grilled bread, arugula, and taggiasca olives added great texture and elements of brine and pepper to its fresh, milky profile. (But then again, show me a person who doesn't like mozzarella--vegans don't count--and I'll show you a flying pig).
Pasta is trickier, though. You don't want fresh pasta--Tavolata's specialty--to be too gummy, too firm, or overcooked, all potential outcomes of the production and cooking process. Here Tavolata scored high, too. Toby's bigoli--a pile of thick, spaghetti-like whole wheat noodles, black pepper, and a heap of feathery pecorino--was hearty and satisfying, with a perfectly al dente bite. The butternut squash ravioli I ordered, served in a rich sage butter and scattered with walnuts, was the taste of autumn--the filling was fluffy and sweet, and the sage and walnuts rounded things out with nutty, aromatic notes.
My only complaint is that the rapini I ordered as a side arrived late and was room temperature--even the cast iron server it was delivered in was just warm to the touch. It would have been worth mentioning if anything else had been amiss, but in addition to our great booth seating and a pasta-friendly value find on the wine list, our server was charming and attentive. Big picture, we left satisfied and feeling cared for.
The Tweet: It certainly isn't vegetarian, but there's enough room at Tavolata for all eaters, and its fresh, veg-friendly pastas are worth the visit.