NEIGHBORHOOD HOT SPOT
WHEN A FIRE TEMPORARILY shuttered this ristorante last fall, West Seattleites acted like they’d lost their own homes. Their kitchens and dining rooms, anyway. La Rustica is the kind of place all its neighbors (and a few of its not-so-neighbors) regard as home away from home—so much that its size is no match for its fan base. (“Please be sensitive to waiting guests during peak hours,” the menu simpers.) Whether they praise the undersized place as “cozy” or pan it as “cramped,” they generally agree that the mottled walls, interior streetlights, and dripping grape vines cast an appealing Roman luster over the room. Straight-up Italian food completes the picture—bruschettas, pizzas, pastas, a robust toss of gnocchi and housemade sausage, a deservedly renowned lamb shank special with risotto and grilled vegetables; all served with addictive pillowy fingers of herbed garlic bread—providing happy sustenance and wistful homage to what life was like before Dr. Atkins came along and ruined everything.