Polenta with soft baked ricotta cheese and porcini mushrooms.
The Place: La Romanza, 4521 California Ave. SW, 906-9914. West Seattle.
The Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 3-6 p.m.
The Deal: La Romanza understands the rich demands of the happy hour hunter and succinctly answers the question: Who wants hummus platters and onion rings when you can have a buffet of elevated Italian fare for the same price?
Here, a glass of happy hour Chianti or Montepulciano will run between $4 and $5 (half the regular price) and most items--like bruschetta, mozzarella salad, polenta with ricotta, and asagio and porcini crepe (!)--ring in at $5, too.
The Digs: La Romanza is opulent: It was formerly the Tuscan Tea Room and still offers afternoon tea service in a "rich Grandma" atmosphere with elegant upholstered chairs and epicurean decor. Happy hour is a new addition to the menu, but on a recent visit, its guests were warmly welcomed and encouraged to sit anywhere in the dining room. You probably feel like an uncivilized hobo hovering over shared plates of $5 polenta and mushroom crepes with truffle cream--again when you spill sauce and dribble red wine on your table's fine linen--but at these prices, you'd be a fool not to show some gusto.
The Verdict: For a cheap and swanky date, keep La Romanza's happy hour in your pocket.