Cascina Spinasse 

roasted carrots cascna
Image: Olivia Brent

Roasted carrots

The hearty cuisine of Italy’s Piedmont region—the marinated rabbit, the truffles, the big butter sauces—is impeccably, consistently thrilling at this rustic wood-hewn ristorante in Pike/Pine. Having recently undergone the sort of change success brings—expansion of both dining room and kitchen; addition of an aperitif bar next door, Artusi—Spinasse should be showing signs of stress. Instead it’s never been better, having attuned itself to diners’ tastes (no more communal tables, no more family-style meals) with lots of the sorts of dishes that showcase the lively palate of chef Jason Stratton: marinated zucchini fragrant with mint and parsley, steamed green beans enlivened with oiled anchovies and egg crumbles, crepes loaded with kale and ricotta in a cheesy hazelnut sauce. Careful who you come with. In this dim light behind these lace curtains, beneath these wrought-iron fixtures, romance will ensue.

WHAT TO ORDER
Oh, the tajarin—the egg-rich pasta of Piedmont, served equally impressively with either butter and sage or delicate ragù. (The kitchen now offers a glassed-in pasta station where you can watch the chefs hand-cut the narrow strands.) For dessert, the hazelnut semifreddo, always on the menu, is very good; the nougat-gelato confection, torrone, served over a smear of honey caramel, is great.
 

Salumi

A line snakes out from this Pioneer Square salumeria every day at lunchtime—so long on summer days, Salumi chefs have been known to walk out to the tail of the line to talk folks out of waiting. I have to wonder if it works. Devotion to the Batali family curing business—celeb chef Mario Batali’s dad started the business, and his sister and brother-in-law operate it now—runs fierce in this town: devotion to the Salumi muffo, soppressata, hot grilled lamb, and other ethereal sandwiches that are really just an adjunct to the family’s thriving wholesale biz. Tuesdays there’s housemade gnocchi, which one of the chefs stands cutting in the window; Wednesdays and Thursdays (by advance reservation only) five-course lunches for parties of eight to 10 start at noon and unspool all afternoon. Service is friendly but atmosphere is zilch: a long narrow deli line with a single communal table at the end. “Like a birth canal,” sighed one delirious eater, “with life at the end.”

WHAT TO ORDER
The porchetta sandwich, built on sturdy bread with meaty chunks of moist pork with warm onions and peppers.
 

Spring Hill

What began as a sophisticated destination restaurant has over the years settled into a crowd-pleasing neighborhood spot. A deft way for a fancy joint to respond to a belt-tightening market, yes—but the fact is no one finds the “yum” inside a hunk of veal sweetbreads (with honey-mustard, ranch, or BBQ!) or sous-vide chicken like owner and chef Mark Fuller. The chef reveres modern techniques and busy concepts, but builds them into dinners where good old-fashioned flavor is paramount. His is one of the great something-for-everyone menus, with chicken liver pate waffles and steak tartare with a soft poached egg appearing alongside one of the city’s best burgers, a meaty half pounder lavished with housemade bacon and special sauce. A snazzy unupholstered decor with an open kitchen and well-stocked bar lends the West Seattle place plenty of figurative—and literal—urban buzz.

WHAT TO ORDER
Wood-grilled shrimp and grits, one of the classic small plates in Seattle. Vegetarians will admire the seasonal vegetable sampler—which in a few thoughtful dishes (plus smoky flatbread) provides a survey of that moment’s local, seasonal produce. Dessert here is required eating: The popcorn ice cream tastes like kettle corn cooked over woodsmoke. In a good way.
 

The Walrus and the Carpenter 

oysters walrus carpenter
Image: Olivia Brent

Oysters of the day

You can see why this Ballard bar in the bleached hues of beach rocks and barnacles gets so much love from the national press—The New York Times and Bon Appétit, to name two recent wet kisses: The Walrus and the Carpenter distills the quintessence of Northwest epicureanism. Seven oyster varieties daily, fresh off Cascadian beaches, served with a whisper of freshly grated horseradish and champagne mignonette. Little plates of haricot vert salad or beet greens tartine, all from local farms. Smoked trout over creme fraiche and lentils with a purple circlet of pickled onion; fried oysters, bursting with brine and speckled with herbs; antipasti and cheeses, embellished with boutique honey or pickled blueberries or tomato jam. Make no mistake: W&C is a nosher’s paradise, not a dinner house, so plan accordingly. Then plan to wait, as dozens of foodie pilgrims crowd the line ahead of you, and reservations aren’t accepted.

WHAT TO ORDER

Raw oysters, according to your server’s recommendation of what’s best that day, and an impressively crafted cocktail from the intelligentsia behind the other bar.