Nutella Zeppole – Cantinetta Bellevue

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My mom was leaving for Taiwan, so I wanted to take her out to dinner before she left.  We needed good food on the eastside that wasn’t too fancy, but my mom knows good food (yes, that’s where I get it from). She likes Italian, and I had really like the Wallingford Cantinetta when I went a few years ago, so I thought we could try the newer outpost in Bellevue. Cantinetta is upscale Italian at its finest.

catinetta - steak tartar

steak tartar – with pomegranate syrup, pretty basic steak tartar, and badly missing crostini to prevent the sliminess of the tartar from being overwhelming, though the chunks of meat were fairly substantial and not completely ground

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Form over Function – Osteria Rigoletto

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I noticed Rigoletto Osteria trending as one of the hot new restaurants so Salumi and I decided to give it a try for our long overdue dining excursion.

Osteria Rigoletto - antipasti

antipasti – prosciutto, coppa, bruschetta, pickled onions, tomato caprese; the cured meats were tasty, I liked the mozzarella the best on this dish

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Spoiled by Pasta – Vespolina

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Urbanspoon ran a contest to encourage use of its save feature, which I use regularly to track the restaurants I’m interested in trying as the are simply too many to keep track of in my head, and randomly drew me as their winner for a gift card to use at one of the restaurants on my list – Vespolina. I’d like to thank Urbanspoon for giving me the opportunity to try this restaurant!

I had been to the restaurant during the new year when it had just opened as Argona – Spanish tapas and had enjoyed the complexity and inventiveness of their dishes. But when you run an empire built on hand made pasta already, customers are interested more in pasta than they were daring Spanish cuisine, which has no pasta at all. Jason Stratton heard the feedback and bravely revamped the entire restaurant to go back to his Italian roots.  The restaurant architecture and design remain the same, but the name and menu are entirely new.

vespolina - antipasti misto

antipasti misto – the sampler appetizer platter, mortedella, beet and sardine on crostini – a nice balance with beets and sea foam, calamari in hummus – a nice combination reaching a little bit closer to the eastern Mediterranean

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Inventive Italian – Cascina Spinasse

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My friend traveled all the way from Tokyo, and people think that he wants Japanese food, in Seattle. He was born in Seattle and Japanese food in Tokyo is much better than any Japanese food you could get in Seattle – hands down. Tokyo has more Michelin starred restaurants than Paris and even more stars overall. It kind of puts things into perspective if you think about Japanese culture and their attention to detail and their craft, that it makes sense that the same sort of reverence and obsession would be applied to food.  However, a trip to Japan and dining at one of the finest Italian restaurants is quite expensive, so we’re sticking to Seattle.  There are a few top notch Italian places on my list: Cantinetta, Café Juanita, La Rustica, Agrodulce, Rione XIII (this is more comfort food), Tavolta, and Cascina Spinasse.

Today’s choice was Cascina Spinase, after having dined at Aragona earlier this year and remembering a pretty fantastic poached egg with fontina, I thought it was time to return. We were not disappointed and ordered a smattering of dishes to get a better taste of the kitchen’s talent.  We watched, with rapture, a chef handmake pasta and breadsticks.  The food was impeccable and truly highlighted their mix of ingredients.

cascina spinasee - proscuitto and zucchini salad

proscuitto and zucchini salad – this was the first half of the antipasti sampler; prosciutto with melon, which featured a very sweet melon, in this classic pairing; and charred zucchini with cheese – like a deconstructed zucchini parmesan (fresh zucchini without a hint of bitterness plays well with the mild cheese)

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Setting a High Bar – Bar Cotto

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Dining with Nutkin and the She-Nutkin, we decided to try Bar Cotto, yet another Ethan Stowell restaurant. This one is a pizza and salumeria (cured meats) restaurant. It’s located right next to his other restaurant, Olives and Anchovies, and on a Thursday night was rather empty.  As this is a pizza and salumi restaurant, we ordered exactly that:

The salumi plate:
– Spicy coppa: flavorful with a hint of fire, the milder version of a sopresetta
– Petit Jesu: a hunk of cured meat that’s the size of the baby Jesus, delicious and hard to find in most places!!!
– Mangalitsa Lardo: back fat, and I’m not kidding.  It melts between your fingertips, but it’s sliced so thinly that you won’t find it too rich
– Torta Frittas – little pillows of fried pizza dough crust, perfect for wrapping for stuffing your cured meats in.  For 3 cured meats, you’ll need two orders of these. I’m not sure if they have bread to go with the salumis… Continue reading »