Food & Drink

From Spinasse to Salare, These Are Seattle's Best Italian Restaurants

Published On 04/07/2015 Published On 04/07/2015
Jacob Smithers/Vendemmia

Vendemmia

Madrona

Perhaps inspired by the restrained Italian food infused with Northwest ingredients of his most recent employer (Ethan Stowell), the chef at this year-old establishment manages to keep both the menu and the space small and simple... but still classy as hell. Look for hand-made pastas, fresh and seasonal vegetables, and a spot at the chef’s counter for a completely up-close-and-personal experience you won't find elsewhere.

Staple & Fancy

Staple & Fancy

Ballard

It's called Staple & Fancy for a few reasons: 1) their staple a la carte offerings as well as their fancy chef's tasting menu and 2) from the original eponymous hand-painted signs found behind a plaster wall. What was once a machine/mercantile shop is now the most interesting of local super-chef Ethan Stowell's various Italian-inspired ventures, especially when you let the chef feed you his own choice of apps, mains, desserts, etc.

Salare

Salare

Ravenna

This understated neighborhood spot with concrete floors, pops of seafoam green, and big bright windows, was one of the best things to happen to Seattle in 2015, and even if this place isn't technically an Italian restaurant -- it uses fancy Northwest ingredients in dishes influenced by everything from Southern cooking to traditional African fare -- ordering one of the pastas on the menu (casarecce w/ oxtail, toasted garlic & ricotta) will be one of the best things you've done for your stomach in a long time.

The Pink Door

Downtown

Warmly lit and intimate, this saucy space in Pike Place Market is great to slip into on a rainy night and enjoy a pasta dinner for two (bonus points for the breathtaking view of the Puget Sound), and if you do it after 11pm on Saturdays you'll get an eyeful of tantalizing burlesque too.

Cinque Terre Ristorante

Cinque Terre

Downtown

One of two seriously good Italian eateries to open over the summer (you should also try Ballard's impossibly charming San Fermo), this sleek modern establishment from the crew behind local mainstays Barolo and Mamma Melina brings a taste of the Riviera -- courtesy of a rotating seafood-focused menu, an oyster bar, and even Neapolitan-style pizza -- to Amazon's new Doppler Building.

Intermezzo Carmine

Il Terrazzo Carmine & Intermezzo Carmine

Pioneer Square
 This famously sophisticated eatery boasts meals like the Ravioli di Capriolo filled with venison and wild mushroom sauce, or the New York steak pepper-encrusted with shoestring potatoes (tie them together under the table and your date will totally fall for you... is this thing on?), plus an adjacent space called Intermezzo Carmine that slings some serious cocktails, small plates, and happy hour deals, and also happens to be one of the most beautiful bars in the city.

Chona Kasinger/Thrillist

Bar Cantinetta

Madison Valley

Tucked away in sleepy Madison Valley, this small, dark, and cozy sister to Cantinetta is the like a love letter to Italy (and your stomach), mostly thanks to things like lamb shank and risotto with foraged mushrooms, crispy prosciutto, and Grana.

Cascina Spinasse

Cascina Spinasse

Capitol Hill

Spinasse is a dark and romantic affair located near the corner of 14th and Pine. Fine hand-cut egg pasta is their bag, so do it up with the Tajarin al Ragu o Burro e Salvia, which you can get in a small or large size. Though a bit of change has been afoot with Chef Stratton leaving the command station this year, the show must go on and their rabbit meatballs are still taking center stage.

Altura

Capitol Hill

Helmed by a husband and wife team who met while crushing Deluxes at the nearby D's, this showy spot boasts seasonal food like a Salish sea halibut and Ellensburg lamb rack with braised neck, fried ribs, marinated olives, polenta, and orange, but don't worry about those, get the chef’s tasting menu, which will set you back $137 but gets you five main plates, plus small bites, and snacks in between.

Il Corvo Pasta

Il Corvo

Pioneer Square

This former pop-up shop's only open a few hours a day for lunch, during which it purveys a rotating selection of what might be Seattle's best pasta. Our favorites include tagliatelle with wild boar ragu, and a farfalle with spicy coppa, sugar snaps, Parm & a light butter sauce, but you'll get whatever it's serving that day and like it. Possibly even like-like it.

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1. The Pink Door 1919 Post Alley, Seattle, WA 98101 (Downtown)

This super-romantic Italian resto Downtown boasts a gorgeous patio, in addition to regular acrobatic & burlesque shows.

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2. Mamma Melina Ristorante 5101 25th Ave NE, Seattle, WA 98105 (University District)

Opened back in the day by the fresh-from-Italy Mamma who inspired its name, this family-run mainstay's boasts floor-to-ceiling windows, a wall of plush booths, and a full marble-topped bar that overlooks a copper-encased wood-fire oven in the open kitchen, where they're cooking a solid selection of pastas (Spaghetti alla Vongole, Bucatini delicati, etc.), pizzas (the Melina, Capricciosa, etc.), and more.

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3. Il Terrazzo Carmine 411 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104 (Pioneer Square)

This famously sophisticated eatery boasts some seriously sweet eats like the Ravioli Di Capriolo filled with venison and wild mushroom sauce, or the New York steak pepper-encrusted with shoestring potatoes (tie them together under the table and your date'll totally fall for you... and possibly get pretty hurt), plus a now expanded space called Intermezzo Carmine slinging sweet cocktails, small plates, and happy hour deals.

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4. Intermezzo Carmine 409 1st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98104 (Pioneer Square)

The expansion to the iconic Intermezzo Carmine in Pioneer Square, this place has super tasty craft Italian cocktails andf small plates like seared ahi tuna and squid ink pasta.

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5. Cinque Terre Ristorante 2001 Westlake Avenue, Seattle, WA (Downtown)

From the people behind Seattle mainstays Barolo and Mamma Melina comes Cinque Terre, a sleek, industrial-style restaurant and oyster bar in Amazon's new Doppler Building, where flavors from its namesake, riverside region in Italy abound. The seafood-focused menu is rotating, but there are some permanent, Riviera-inspired fixtures, like its pesto made daily, mussels, octopus, shrimp, dry aged cod, and a small list of brick-oven pizzas. The pies range from a classic margherita to the Rustica Locale with local pear, onion, gorgonzola, and dried cherries.

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6. That's Amore Italian Cafe 1425 31st Ave S, Seattle, WA 98144 (Mount Baker)

That’s Amore touts perhaps one of the awesomest table-side views of Seattle, but we recommend making a reservation in advance to secure the spot for extra romantic value. This Mt. Baker locale is tops for its selection pizzas and calzones, as well as for its formidable fresh tortellone, which is hand crafted every day with tortellone and whatever strikes the chef’s fancy for the day.

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7. Ristorante Doria 4759 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105 (University District)

Right next to the Seven Gables Theatre you’ll find this unassuming Italian mom-and-pop spot turning out gnocchi as fluffy as little potato clouds; their super-rich take on it keeps us coming back, but their Bolognese and puttanesca aren’t too shabby either.

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8. Bar Cantinetta 2811 E Madison St, Seattle, WA 98112 (Madison Park)

Bar Cantinetta is a hybrid of already existing Italian joints in Seatown, but it's relatively more delicious and innovative. Their tapas plates, as well as extensive wine list, are jaw-dropping in comparison to the canned sauce/rigatoni you were going to make yourself at home.

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9. Bizzarro Italian Cafe 1307 N 46th St, Seattle, WA 98103 (Wallingford)

This quirky Italian cafe in Wallingford is a true hidden gem. Open only five hours a day, this place purveys clam linguine, plus other highlights like elk bolognese. Oh, and just so you know what you’re getting into here, one of the chalkboards that greets you when you walk in the door reads, “You are never ‘fine’ with just water.”

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10. Ristorante Machiavelli 1215 Pine St, Seattle, WA 98101

Open since 1988, this is a great Italian joint to get some sweet pasta. Definitely try the lasagna with spinach noodles and chicken livers.

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11. Cascina Spinasse 1531 14th Ave, Seattle, WA 98122

The Italian mainstay serves up handmade pastas, salumi/charcuterie, and tasty desserts like panzanella and panna cotta.

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12. Il Corvo 217 James St, Seattle, WA 98104 (Downtown)

Lunchtime is your only chance to score some of the incredible handmade pastas at Pioneer Square's Il Corvo, where the menu changes daily. Guests can expect entrees along the lines of tagliatelle with wild boar ragu, gigli with broccolini, chilies, and garlic, and other similarly sophisticated pasta dishes. Be sure to check out Il Corvo's website for daily offerings.

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13. Staple & Fancy 4739 Ballard Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98107 (Ballard)

This place's name says it all. Chef Ethan Stowell offers à la carte "Staple" choices, as well as a multi-course "Fancy" chef's tasting menu. The former includes a variety of Italian-inspired eats, like gnocchi with housemade fennel sausage and braised lamb shank, while the latter includes $55 worth of the chef's choice. Either way, you can't go wrong.