Dinner at Cascina Spinasse

There are a slew of restaurants around town that have the blogging world in a collective swoon. These are places that draw an opinion one way or the other, but generally they are well liked. If not, folks are only trying to stem the tide to be different. Not exactly novel, but bloggers are an interesting lot. What’s my point? That there are restaurants that are so hip, so interesting, and so, so very good, that the food community has taken a look and realize that they love it. One of those places in Seattle is Capitol Hill’s Cascina Spinasse. Don’t believe me? Check out the role call on their Urbanspoon page; Cascina Spinasse is blowin’ up.

We went on a beautiful Monday evening in Seattle. The vibe at Spinasse was great; a rolling hum to the room that was mostly full, the soft breeze kicking in; it all helped make for a nice night for dinner. Stepping into Spinasse, you’ll notice the tables and decor. There are about five tables with three of those set up for communal dining and a bar with seats for about 10. We also really liked the layout and design; for being a relatively new restaurant it has a very ‘lived in’ feel. It felt like I was in an Italian kitchen. Bear in mind, I’ve never been in an actual Italian kitchen, but the fixtures, design, even the candles had a very welcoming feel.

This is all great, but a restaurant’s calling card is it’s food and Spinasse does Italian really well. One of the early things that folks may notice is the open kitchen. You’ll see a massive table where the chef Justin Neidermeyer will be rolling out pasta. This is where Spinasse stands out. They do all of their pastas fresh daily with chef Neidermeyer personally working with his pasta dough. But it’s not just pasta that makes the menu stand out, there are all sorts of other intriguing and exciting dishes on it too. From the antipasti’s, to the primi’s (the pasta), to the secondi (entrees), you’ll find at least one thing in each area that you’ll want to try. The food and buzz at Spinasse was so loud that even folks from LA had to make the trek to our corner and take Spinasse for a spin.

Here are my three really cool things about Cascina Spinasse:

  • The vibe

I mentioned this earlier but the entire feeling that we got at Spinasse was one of swooning. We swooned over the decor, the service, the food, the wine. For us, they all clicked and made us wanting more and looking forward to our next visit.

We loved the wines that were brought out to us. Spinasse dabbles almost exclusively in Piedmont, and my knowledge of the wines of Italy are still infantile, but we did have some good ones. The 2006 Langhe Nebbiolo from Giuseppe Corteso and the 2006 Gavi from Cascina Degli Ulivi. The Nebbiolo had a creative nose that was unique and paired perfectly with our heavier dishes, while the Gavi had a bright citric acidity that helped cut through the richness and fat of our starters.

  • Antipasti’s

Yeah, you would never think of the starters as being a drawing card for a restaurant, but it totally is at Spinasse. My friend Porter suggested the misto della casa (which is like a super sampler), but there were a few other things that I really had my eye on.

We were first greeted by a few amuse-bouches and they were excellent. One was a rabbit pate atop a piece of toasted bread, while the other was some house made ricotta, with cherry tomatoes. The awesome Surly Gourmand also had these in his visit and loved ‘em. Heck, we loved ‘em. In fact, I would order these and they were on the house!

But there were a few other antipasti’s that I enjoyed; the lardon, prosciutto, and anchovies. All three were excellent and distinctive. Lardon is the backfat of a pig, and it’s basically thin slices of beautifully rich pieces of fat with just a hint of meat to each slice. These housemade delights are so fatty they started sweating. Awesome. The prosciutto on premises was also tasty. Artfully arranged, salty, bold, long finish; they exhibited all the hallmarks of good proscuitto. And the anchovies. Aah, the anchovies, I’m aware that most people won’t venture to anchovy land, but you really should. They are like little briny ocean bombs of flavor. Try one. You’ll love it.

  • Primi’s

The pastas at Spinasse are the ace in the hole and they didn’t disappoint. I’m slowly stepping into the world of fresh pastas and I like the experience. Truly different then off the shelf pasta; fresh has a unique bounce and springyness (it’s a word, sort of) that is definitely one of a kind. And because they make it fresh everyday at Spinasse, I know that it’s been under the tlc of the crew. They only work with rolled pastas, not extruded, so each flat little noodle is a perfect vehicle for the flavors that will take it on a ride.

We ordered four. The maltagliatti (on the recommendation of the Surly Gourmand), the ravioli (on the recommendation of our delightful server) and both tajarins; one with ragu and the other with butter and sage. All were delicious. The maltagliattie was a mish mosh of wide pasta shapes in a sauce of prosciutto and beans. This was stick to your ribs Italian comfort food. I really liked the richness and salt of the dish; it was like something that was just meant to be eaten, enjoyed with friends and a few bottles of wine. The ravioli was also excellent; we devoured this in a hurry. I think the filling included nettles, but we inhaled way before my blogger hat kicked in.

The tajarins. Oh, the tajarins. Thinly cut strips of egg pasta either awash in butter and sage or in ragu. Both were standout dishes that I’d recommend. The butter and sage had lift to it from the earthy sage, it was something that I wish I could make at home, but I know I would screw it up. The ragu was meaty, but elegant, it’s richness was something that I really enjoyed.

My point is this, try the pastas at Spinasse, I think you’ll fall in love.

Enjoy your dinner at Spinasse! While not a cheap one, it is memorable and it will take you to a visit in Italy that is uniquely Seattle. What I also love is that the feel of Spinasse is its honesty, and maybe that has something to do with the subject matter. Italian food is really highlighted by top-shelf quality ingredients that when put together in a dish really shine and sing. Food has the ability to be lyrical and the crew at Spinasse serenaded me all evening.

Cascina Spinasse on Urbanspoon

Photo courtesy of Meryl Schenker / P-I
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