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Bar Cantinetta

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I completely forgot that I started a post two and a half weeks ago about our dinner at Bar Cantinetta three weeks ago. Let me finish what will be an abbreviated version of the post, since the alternative may be no post at all.

Bar Cantinetta opened last summer, replacing one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, La Cote, the subject of several posts (for instance, this one). It is the younger sibling of Cantinetta, which opened in the Wallingford neighborhood in 2009 to excellent reviews. The Seattle Times called Cantinetta a “powerfully evocative slice of Italy” whose “efforts combine a wonderful balance of flavors with an element of surprise.”

We have yet to eat at Cantinetta, but with Bar Cantinetta so close, we were eager to try it. Here’s its website self-description:

The Madison Valley neighborhood in Seattle is a beautiful setting for friends and family to gather at ease. The warmth of our room inspires celebration and conviviality.

We opened Bar Cantinetta on August 24, 2013. We are a cozy neighborhood pastaria emphasizing Tuscan culinary traditions, authentic hand-made pasta, and seasonal organic ingredients from the Pacific Northwest. To serve you with excellence is the essence at Bar Cantinetta.

Let’s see if by looking at the menu, I’ll remember what we ate.

I must have started with the mixed salad. Gail had the Dungeness crab, Joel the beef tartare. We were all happy. Like Cantinetta, they offer a very limited selection of entrees. There were four pasta choices (the “primi”) and one secondi, which was halibut. We all went with pasta: Joel the tagliolini rosso, romanesco, olivi, ricotta salata; Gail the risotto, charred ramps, house-made fennel sausage; and me the orecchietti, Anderson braised lamb, spring nettles. The one pasta dish we passed up was ricotta spinach gnudi, preserved tomato, guanciale. I didn’t know what gnudi was, but Gail said it is a type of gnocchi and the server confirmed this.

The restaurant was dead empty while we were there, perhaps not surprising given that we arrived just after they opened for the afternoon/evening. The one exception to the emptiness was the arrival of a family about twenty minutes after us: a father, mother, and two daughters. Given that both parents were wearing Mariners hats and shirts, it’s a safe bet they had come straight from the afternoon baseball game, in search of an early dinner. Alas, they couldn’t make heads or tails of the menu items. And once the server helped them make heads and tails, they weren’t all that pleased. Or at least the father wasn’t. I can understand. Risotto and ramps? Orecchietti and nettles? Not everyone’s idea of attractive pasta dishes. (And what are ramps, anyway?) After spirited discussion, they took off, leaving us to ourselves again.

As for us, we were happy. The pasta itself is excellent, as advertised. Nettles? They were interesting.

I’ll confess, I’m probably happier at another neighborhood Italian restaurant, Cafe Parco, which I wrote about three Januarys ago and again last summer. This year we have become monthly regulars. I love their carbonara, which I would happily order every time. I did manage to tear myself away from it once and try the veal scaloppine, a fine alternative.

Cafe Parco is a two-person operation, owner-chef Celinda in the kitchen and the delightful Nic in front. We tell Nic what we want to spend on wine and Celinda chooses it for us. We’ve never been steered wrong. Next Sunday, we’ll celebrate Mother’s Day with their weekend brunch. Can’t wait.

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Categories: Restaurants
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