A sidewalk patio with shaded seating flanks Cafe Bengodi's corner façade, appealing to passersby with promises of authentic Italian cuisine and al fresco dining. Chefs deliver on this promise by doling out antipasti rich with cheeses and salamis, then cooking mounds of homemade pastas and fresh Neapolitan pizzas. Espresso, beer, and wine accent the meal and allow patrons to propose toasts as a subtle way to drop a hint that they need a new toaster.
The Chef: Walter Pisano is classically trained in European cuisines, and was the first American to work as a sous chef at the Jean-Louis restaurant at DC’s Watergate Hotel.
Where to Sit
Fun Fact: Tulio follows many eco-friendly practices, including converting excess cooking oils into biodiesel fuel, using biodegradable cleaning products, and relying on energy-efficient lighting.
Awards and Acclaim
Burrata: a ball of cheese consisting of a thin shell of mozzarella on the outside, and a rich blend of cheese curd and cream on the the inside. Derived from the Italian for “buttered” or “buttery”.
Orecchiette: a type of small, round pasta. It’s name means “small ear” in Italian, a reference to the pasta’s unusual shape.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Explore a selection of unique home decor, jewelry, and gifts at far4 (1020 1st Ave).
After: Sip on cocktails by the 1,900-gallon freshwater aquarium in the Musicquarium Lounge at The Triple Door (216 Union St).
About the Chef: It’s hard to imagine Ethan Stowell, a James Beard–nominated chef, as a dishwasher and potato peeler. But that’s how he started, working his way up from the bottom to become one of Seattle’s prominent culinary figures. The self-taught chef designed the simple, rustic menu at How to Cook a Wolf, as well as at each of his other nine restaurants.
Where to Sit: Belly-up to the stacked-stone and cork-covered bar, grab a table with wood-backed banquette seating, or stake out a place on the patio during warm weather.
While You’re Waiting
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Expand your board-game collection at Blue Highway Games (2203 Queen Anne Ave N).
After: Grab a nightcap in the form of a Manny’s Pale Ale at Hilltop Ale House (2129 Queen Anne Ave N).
Housemade Italian Cuisine | Quirky Decor | Artistic Staff | Sunday Pasta Special
The Vibe: The Stranger boils Bizzarro Italian Cafe’s interior design down to this: "weird-stuff-all-over-the-place decor." Within this eclectic space, which used to be an auto workshop, Seattle Met has spotted "gilt-framed everything" and flea-market chandeliers, while Seattle magazine noticed a bicycle hanging from the ceiling.
When to Go: If you're craving a comforting plate of spaghetti and meatballs, plan to visit on Sunday, which is the only day Bizzarro serves it.
Get ready for some singing. Kathleen, an early Bizzarro waitress, frequently improvised operatic tunes about her customers, and today's servers—often artists themselves—are also known to croon from time to time.
Gremolata: an Italian condiment that typically consists of finely chopped garlic, parsley, and lemon.
Bolognese: an Italian meat sauce, typically made from onion, celery, carrots, wine, tomatoes, and meat. Though many places traditionally use beef or pork, Bizzarro favors a rarer game: elk.
While You're in the Neighborhood
There was once a pair of friends who shared the same name. These friends—the Gregs—also shared the belief that even casual food should be fresh. So they put their heads together to found Zaw Artisan Pizza, where seasonal, organic, and locally sourced ingredients top carefully crafted take-and-bake pies. Diners can watch over the counter as pizza artistes decorate white, whole wheat, or gluten-free crusts with toppings such as free-range chicken breast, hearty spinach, and fresh artisan cheeses. Each pie leaves the shop unfrozen—as evidenced by the lack of freezers in all six stores—to be baked to a golden crisp inside the customer's oven or backyard iron forge. To further their commitment to quality, the Gregs strive to source local ingredients from neighborhood farmers' markets whenever possible, and craft each batch of dough with Bob's Red Mill flours.
The cooks at Romio's Pizza have had nearly 30 years to perfect their craft: making sauce from scratch and tossing homemade dough in traditional, garlic, and whole-wheat flavors. All that practice has also led to a long menu of signature pies. There's the sauce-free Gorgonzola Gourmet, the spicy Kicking Chicken, and of course, the house special, a pizza topped with pepperoni, canadian bacon, mushrooms, peppers, and feta.
That last ingredient speaks to the restaurant's Greek influence, as do the dolmades, gyros, and the certificate of inspection signed by Zeus himself. But Romio's isn't afraid to break from tradition?they have an extensive gluten-free menu, which includes variants on their pasta dishes and paninis.