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Birthday Dinner


I don’t have a birthday this year. I’ll have to wait another three years for the next one. But somewhere between yesterday and today I did get a year older. And to celebrate, we went to dinner last night at Il Terrazzo Carmine, the Italian restaurant in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle where Gail and I have celebrated many of our birthdays (or non-birthdays) in recent years. For whatever reason, I didn’t focus on what we might do to celebrate until late yesterday morning, when I finally called Carmine’s and heard the message that they were pretty full last night, but might have space at 5:00 or 8:30. I was instructed to leave a message and they’d get back to me after 3:00. If it were just the two of us, they might have been able to squeeze us in at a regular table, but with Joel’s return from Boston Friday night and our niece Leigh Anne’s return from New York for a few days, once you throw in Leigh Anne’s parents, Jessica, and Cynthia, we were a party of 8. I left a message requesting a table for 8 at 5:00, we told everyone to meet there if they didn’t hear from us again, and we waited.

The call came at 3:15. George told me that they were pretty full and a party of 8 couldn’t be handled in the dining room, but they could put us in the lounge. I’d never looked closely enough at the lounge to see how the tables were laid out. He said there was a series of tables of 2 and they could put some together. Same menu, same service, same tablecloths, just like the regular room. I asked what it was like, and he said (after noting that I must not come there very often) that some people even prefer it. For a big occasion, like a birthday, they like to see and be seen. (I had told him it was my birthday.) I wasn’t too worried about that, but I clearly had no other option, so I said yes. He then asked what time — 5:00, 5:30, 6:00? I said I thought I had no choice. He then said if we didn’t come, they could easily fill the space with others. At that point, I was thoroughly confused about the path the conversation was taking. I just thought it was 5:00 or 8:30. Well, anyway, I said we’d be there at 5:00, since that was what everyone had been told, and that was that.

We arrived at 4:55 and were ushered into the lounge, where Jessica already was seated. The room was intimate, very pleasant, a row of tables on one wall with the bar and stools along the other, except the bar didn’t run all the way to the far wall, so there was room for one more two-top in the far corner beyond the bar. We were in the other far corner, away from the bar, near the two-top. So we didn’t feel right up against the bar or bar-seated patrons. We were, in fact, quite out of the way. Along the wall was banquette seating, with four facing chairs.

I won’t try to describe what we all ate. I’ll focus on me. I started with the risotto of the day, which was prepared with a spicy bolognese sauce and sausage. My main dish was the grilled rib veal chop with rosemary oil essence, served with shoestring potatoes and arugula. It was all fantastic, as was the bread. Gail had the cannelloni as an appetizer. I love their cannelloni, and got to taste one bite of it. And then Gail had their ossobuco, served over saffron risotto. I got to try her risotto too. Joel had Fettuccine Al Pesto Con Gamberi — fettuccine with Gulf prawns — and I also got to taste his fettuccine. For good measure, I tried Jessica’s fettuccine alfredo, not on the menu but made special at her request. There were a few pasta dishes on the menu that I didn’t get to try, but this was enough. Oh, I also got to try half a lamb chop.

Carmine’s is great. It’s a mystery to me why we don’t eat there more often. A few years ago, as a Christmas present, I gave Gail a punchcard with punches for the twelve months of the next year so we could eat there monthly. We didn’t, so I renewed the gift with a new punchcard the next year. We still didn’t. And a third year, and we didn’t again. Maybe this is the year. We’ll have to make up for January though.

Shortly after the dinner plates were removed, our waiter appeared with a surprise, an order of tiramisu pierced by a lit candle. Happy Birthday was sung, I blew the candle out, and the waiter re-appeared with the dessert tray. Gail and I ordered profiterole to share. A delightful ending to a wonderful meal.

On leaving, we headed up to the other side of downtown so we could stop by at Jessica’s Belltown condo. More on that in my next post.

What’s Dale Chihuly doing at the top? Well, somewhere between our main course and dessert, he dropped by the bar to join in the celebration. I guess word got out that we were there — the see-and-be-seen phenomenon — and he headed down to be part of it.

Categories: Family, Food, Restaurants
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