Not sure if anyone noticed but I’ve been absent for a week helping my sister and niece move from one Seattle neighborhood to another. Alas, all internet was down so, at the end of the week, we all felt a bit like Tom Hanks in Cast Away. Picture three strong-willed ladies packing, moving and setting up a new living space sans the world wide web. Amazingly, we are still talking and had some terrific times together.
What we also did was eat…some spectacular Italian food. To be honest, I don’t have a recipe to share with you. What I do have are some ideas, comments and insights that might inspire you as much as they’ve inspired me.
If you find yourself in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle over the summer, absolutely spend an evening at Ristorante Picolino’s on 32nd Avenue. In a little neighborhood up the hill from Market Street, Ristorante Picolino’s works very hard to provide an authentic feel to compliment each moment of your dining experience. I adore fish but have always had a difficult time embracing shell fish. The consistency of shrimp, for example, is like sea bugs popping in my mouth…yeah, not too appetizing. Little did I know that tiger prawns are nothing like shrimp and Cappellini al Pomodoro e Basilico accentuated with grilled tiger prawns was a fantastic note to my education. Each bite had a freshness and balance that caused me to linger over the flavors as well as the ambience thoughtfully staged around me.
Another dish that stands out for me was the Risotto Zafferano. I’ve had risotto at a few restaurants and make it myself at home. Because Arborio rice is used specifically for the creamy effect, it can be on the stickier side. Not so at Picolino’s. The Risotto Zafferano had a lightness about it that, complimented by the freshness of the spring peas, felt oh so delicate in my mouth.
Although I did not try the pizzas at Picolino’s, I understand the gentleman who makes them was trained in Naples where he grew up and they are outstanding.
We also had the pleasure of dining at Ristorante Doria, located on the corner of Roosevelt Way NE and NE 50th Street. Throughout our meal, when the volume allowed, chef and owner, Marcello, would sit and visit with us. I found him to be completely delightful and engaging. Our order of Antipasto del Posto consisted of roasted and stuffed artichoke hearts, a Sicilian style roasted Brussels sprouts dish that I’d dare describe like a gratin and a roasted, grilled vegetable dish. I enjoy Brussels sprouts but I will say this was the most flavorful, unexpected preparation of Brussels sprouts I have had and all five people at the table were equally blown away. While the selection of Antipasto I experienced is probably not the norm, it provided a fantastic representation of what Marcello and Ristorante Doria is capable of. I could go on to tell you that the Gnocchi ai Quattro formaggi was fluffy, smooth and creamy or that the Salsiccia alla Mantovana (grilled Italian sausage, caramelized onion, balsamic vinegar and gorgonzola) was my husband’s favorite dish. What I’d really recommend is family style eating so your party can try a myriad of Marcello’s creations in the relaxed café that he has created with the intention of bringing a bit of Southern Italy to Seattle. Salute!