Wednesday, April 24, 2013

SEATTLE: Cascina Spinasse

Hungry for something different one recent weekday evening, we took the recommendation of a friend and headed to Cascina Spinasse on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. It was outstanding!

Opened in August 2008, Spinasse features the cuisine of the Piedmont region of northern Italy. While the menu includes items in the antipasti, primi, and secondi categories, the offerings are far more interesting than typical Italian fare. Pheasant ravioli, rabbit meatballs, and butter-poached duck breast were all on offer when we visited.

Drinks at Spinasse
Once seated, our server Brian came by to offer a before-dinner beverage. After a long day at the office, my wife thought a vodka martini would be just the thing while I, as a former bartender, thought Brian’s suggested “cocktail of the moment” sounded intriguing.

At Spinasse, “floor staff” as they’re called apparently play multiple roles. Brian also served as our bartender, mixing the libations we’d ordered himself. Departing from today’s norm where a standard “martini” is usually just gin or vodka, shaken with ice, then strained into a glass, Brian made the martini in the old school manner, marrying just the right amount of dry vermouth with the 360 Vodka for a silky smooth sippable.

My drink was a concoction Brian and a fellow bartender had recently dreamed up. A twist on the classic Negroni, it was equal parts Fernet-Branca, Campari, freshly squeezed lime juice, and simple syrup, shaken together and served straight up in a martini glass with an orange twist. I was initially concerned that it might be too sweet with that much sugar syrup, but it balanced the bitter flavors of the Fernet-Branca and the Campari perfectly.

About the time our drinks came out, we were served an amuse-bouche of crostini topped with sweet cream butter and a slice of tender anchovy.

Antipasti misti della casa
After that, it was on to more substantial appetizers. Unable to choose from the restaurant’s antipasti offerings, we decided to have them all.

Spinasse offers an antipasti misti della casa, which is a selection of four of its delicious appetizers: marinated cauliflower salad with ricotta, pinenuts, and shaved fennel; shaved kohlrabi and watermelon radish with anchovy, Meyer lemon, capers and parmigiano-reggiano cheese; marinated king oyster mushroom with controne chickpeas, fennel and Shigoku oyster emulsion; and prosciutto di parma served with slices of marinated apple.

After lingering over the antipasti, we decide we weren’t quite finished exploring Spinasse’s offerings, and opted to share a main dish and a side.

Swiss chard rolls and roasted carrots
For our main dish, we chose the Capunet: traditional Swiss chard rolls stuffed with pork shoulder, foie gras and potato; served with caramelized honey sauce. We agreed they reminded us of the cabbage rolls our German mothers and grandmothers had made, though the chard had a much more delicate texture than the cabbage, and the filling was far smoother than the ground beef with rice in the dishes of our shared heritage. Our side of roasted young carrots with sage and Barolo vinegar was equally delicious, as was the bread made by Columbia City Bakery.

The dining room is designed to authentically reflect the rustic atmosphere found in Piedmontese trattorias. It’s casual, inviting, and a great place to linger while enjoying a leisurely dinner of truly inventive, well-prepared dishes. We’ll definitely be back.

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Photos by Carl Dombek
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