Who's Cooking? Brad Inserra. He founded Swingside in 1990 and has lived in its kitchen ever since. Just kidding. But he does spend about 70 hours per week in the kitchen and lives in the house right upstairs.
The Vibe: Homey, cozy, and a bit rustic. A bunch of knickknacks and pictures line wood-paneled walls, and room for 50 diners means visits are always intimate.
Bolognese: an Italian meat sauce, typically made from onion, celery, carrots, wine, tomatoes, and meat, such as beef or pork.
The chefs at Pizza Oven hand toss fresh dough to create specialty pizzas available by the slice or whole pie. In addition to creative pies like the Bangkok Bombshell, slathered in thai peanut sauce, chicken, cilantro, and mozzarella, they also make classic bread sticks and garlic bread sticks.
Ah Badabing pays homage to the mob’s favorite pastime: eating pizza. Chefs sprinkle 26 different toppings, such as canadian bacon and capers, on top of crusts that range from 12-inch disks to a behemoth 30-inch circle that feeds up to 16 people or satisfies one restless alligator. The white pizza presents an Arctic landscape of pristine mozzarella, parmesan, and olive oil, and the pepperoni pizza contains vibrant chunks of meat resting atop a thick blanket of mozzarella.
Instead of printing its menu in a leather-bound booklet or sending notes to the kitchen via pneumatic tube, Dominik's Italian Food for You! keeps ordering simple. Like any classic Italian deli, Dominik's menu is written on an oversized chalkboard hanging on the wall, showcasing the hot and cold sandwiches that load meatballs and marinara, salami and pepperoni, and Italian sausage and peppers inside nine-inch loaves of bread. The chefs also mix, knead, and hand-stretch fresh dough for pizzas and simmer flavorful sauces for spaghetti, lasagna, and other pasta dishes.
When Chef Emran Chowdhury wanted to learn more about cooking traditional Italian cuisine, he decided to go straight to the source. In 2012—two years after taking over the kitchen at Cantinetta—he took a sabbatical in Italy, traveled throughout Rome and Montepulciano, and worked in a number of professional kitchens. Chef Chowdhury returned to Seattle, inspired by the culinary traditions he’d learned in Tuscany, yet intent on incorporating as many seasonal, organic ingredients from nearby farms as possible. Indeed, his menu does manage to blend the flavors of Italy and the contemporary sensibilities of the Pacific Northwest. And, it's proved a winning combination––the eatery earned Seattle magazine’s 2012 Readers’ Choice award for Best Italian Food. Hand-made pasta dishes appear prominently, arriving with classic ingredients such as smoky speck and buffalo mozzarella or with slightly more inventive ingredients, including sugar snap peas and a duck egg. As for the second course, it could feature anything from a St. Helens flank steak with house-made lardo to homemade lamb sausage with stone fruits and 15 year balsamic. Much like the menu, Cantinetta’s cozy décor aims for a balance that echoes both its rustic and contemporary influences. “The interior appears to have been transported—lock, stock and breadsticks—from San Gimignano or Siena,” according to The Seattle Times. The tan plaster walls and bistro-style wooden tables do exude an Old World vibe, although the restaurant’s large plate-glass windows and full-sized particle accelerator provide a decidedly more modern touch.
Inside Tip: Taste is located at the Seattle Art Museum, making it easy to combine cultural and culinary bliss in one stop.
When to Go: Stop by during happy hour for discounted meals and snacks, such as polenta fries with red pepper aioli, deviled eggs, and salt cod fritters, that can be paired with featured cocktails or domestic drafts. Otherwise, head in for Sunday brunch (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.) to try what the Seattle Magazine called the “Best Northwest Spin on Chicken and Waffles.”