Bar del Corso Pizza

Lucky Beacon Hill, that its pizzeria so embodies the soul of the neighborhood restaurant. The place bubbles, from the sheer crush of devotees inside its tidy, clean-lined quarters to its wood-fired pizza crusts—crispy and flavorful like Neapolitan with a little more tooth to the chew. These pies are the province of master pizzaiolo Jerry Corso, who delivers a short list of European antipasti, seasonal salads, and terrific Italian desserts—along with cocktails, wines, and beers—to round out the main event. If it’s on offer, don’t miss the sassy anchovy-lit puttanesca, or whatever garden special he’s got going. 3057 Beacon Ave S, Beacon Hill, 206-395-2069; bardelcorso.com. $$

 

Bistro Turkuaz Mediterranean
Turkish-born restaurateur Ugur Oskay installed her sons to help in the kitchen and her elegant daughter to charm the patrons at the tables. The cozy -Madrona restaurant imparts a primer on Turkish cuisine, long underrepresented in this town. Within these red walls, decorated with art that might be in someone’s classy home, diners can choose dolmas heady with currants and herbs; panfried zucchini pancakes called mucver; or first-rate Mediterranean dips, from hummus to cacik (Turkish tzatziki) to baba ghanoush (order the Turkuaz Plate to get them all, along with triangles of warm pita). Select from an array of meat kebabs: zestily marinated, but on a recent visit, overgrilled. Given the otherwise fine performance of this neighborhood jewel, you won’t mind. 1114 34th Ave, Madrona, 206-324-3039; bistroturkuaz.com. $$

 

Brad’s Swingside Cafe Mediterranean
When the time comes, and it will, that your house-guests beg you for a glimpse of Seattle authenticity, bring them to the Swingside. The knotty pine walls and cramped quarters and cozily steamed windows convey the kind of rumpled charm that Seattleites, especially Fremonsters, don’t easily resist, and the result is the textbook neighborhood restaurant. Brad Inserra, owner and chef, turns out Italian comfort food with keen attention to sources, from organic lamb to blue-ribbon Pino Rogano handmade pork sausage. The finished products tend toward luscious, imperfectly wrought but compulsively eatable one-dish meals, like a fragrant and well-stocked bouillabaisse or—Brad’s signature dish—a fully lubed aglio e olio veritably aquiver with garlic. It’s Montepulciano food, best enjoyed with a tableful of friends against the mellow virtuosity of live musicians (Inserra books the best, often unadvertised), who are interrupted often by eruptions of laughter. Lunches come and go; call ahead. 4212 Fremont Ave N, Fremont, 206-633-4057. $$

 

Cafe Lago Italian
This exemplary streetside Italian cafe is run with a perfectionist’s standard, from handcrafted pasta to the fabled gnocchi, featherweight lasagna, and crackle-crusted wood-fired pizzas. The result is a destination restaurant masquerading as a neighborhood joint, with a neighborhood joint’s clattering aesthetic. (And miserable parking.) So take the bus already; just get there for a plate of the best butternut squash and sage ravioli you’ll ever taste. Cocktails too. 2305 24th Ave E, Montlake, 206-329-8005; cafelago.com. $$

 

chico madrid salad
Image: Olivia Brent
Chico Madrid A sleek and mod splash of Europe on Capitol Hill

Chico Madrid Spanish: CLOSED 
As the corner coffee shop is to Seattle, so the bocadillo snack cafe is to Spain: casual, all-day, everywhere, essential. Chico Madrid is both—a sleek and mod splash of Europe on the west flank of Capitol Hill, with stunning beverages and noshes and just the patio for enjoying them. The all-day menu features bocadillo sandwiches—toasted baguettes with simple, pure ingredients, like Manchego cheese and tomato pulp, or bonito tuna and preserved lemon—along with open-face toasts with toppings like honey-drizzled blue cheese and pepper, or the Barcelonan grilled cheese sandwiches called bikinis. Coffee is hand-pulled organic Caffe Vita—read: exquisite—and Sangria never topples into the realm of the oversweet. (After your search for a parking spot, you’ll need a glass.) 711 Bellevue Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-453-3234; chicomadrid.com. $

 

Delancey / Pantry at Delancey Pizza  Essex Bar
The steamy-windowed storefront is the project of Brandon Pettit and Molly Wizenberg, she of the award-winning blog Orangette, and its wood-fired oven seeks to mimic the coal-fired beauties that issue from the ovens of New York’s artisan pizzerias. The resulting crust (you really have to love charry crust bubbles here) is topped with craftsman pepperoni and housemade pork-fennel sausage, with a signature bright-sweet tomato sauce that goes into the oven uncooked. We like the Brooklyn pie, made with aged and fresh mozzarellas and Grana Padano; it’s sweet then salty, earthy with age but fresh as spring, burnt then doughy. The place isn’t much in the way of a destination—but now can you see why you waited an hour for your table? A couple of ancillary enterprises share Delancey’s kitchen and buoyant gastronomic spirit: the craft cocktail bar Essex next door, and a cooking school/family dinner setup, Pantry at Delancey, which features a calendar of multicourse, family-style meals, reservation only. 

Delancey: 1415 NW 70th St between 14th Ave NW and Alonzo Ave NW, Ballard, 206-838-1960; delanceyseattle.com. $$ Pantry at Delancey: 1417 NW 70th St between 14th Ave NW and Alonzo Ave NW, Ballard, 206-436-1064; thepantryatdelancey.com. $$$$ Essex: 1421 NW 70th St between 14th Ave NW and Alonzo Ave NW, Ballard, 206-724-0471; essexbarseattle.com. $

 

Eva Restaurant New American
One of the enchantments of Seattle’s restaurant scene is finding underheralded gems like Eva scattered deep in the neighborhoods. In this sunny homespun corner of Wallingford, lined with windows and filled with folks who come as they are, pristine seasonal ingredients are whipped into smart, deeply flavorful preparations, crafted with a sly streak: perhaps Cabrales flan with pear relish, mussels steamed with garam masala–kissed coconut milk, or roasted quail with chorizo bread pudding. Almost nothing misses. An adjoining wine bar and toe-curling desserts enhance the versatile user-friendliness of this find. 2227 N 56th St at Kirkwood Pl N, Wallingford, 206-633-3538; evarestaurant.com. $$

 

Frank’s Oyster House and Champagne Parlor Americana

With its endearing blend of decor both quirky (plywood walls) and glam (velvet settees, tufted white leather bar stools), Frank’s levels a broad wink at its cocktail-swilling, oyster-slurping, steak-knifing clientele—and they love him right back. Because -really, who wouldn’t love fried oysters or creamy goat cheese deviled eggs or copiously buttered lobster rolls—all preludes to big New York steaks, perhaps, or succulent pork chops with pear salad and celery root puree? Yep, the retro food is winking at you too, but it’s executed with such respect (and served with such terrific bubbly and cocktails) there’s simply no way to dismiss the place. Desserts run to exceptional creamy things, particularly a banana split with housemade ice creams and bruleed bananas. 2616 NE 55th St between 26th and 27th Aves E, Ravenna, 206-525-0220; franksoysterhouse.com. $$ 

 

Judy Fu’s Snappy Dragon Chinese
It’s unlikely the industrious sixtysomething Chinese-born chef Judy Fu sees herself as a rock star—but everyone else in Seattle does. Is it her handmade chow mein noodles, rolled and cut to every order by a chef in an open kitchen in the back? (Soft and toothsome, their texture alone elevates Snappy Dragon’s chow mein to a quality no other place in town approaches.) Is it her feisty sauces (now available in grocery stores across the region), which make her black-bean asparagus with prawns and her tender handmade jiao-zi (boiled dumplings) so delectable? Or is it simply her steady omnipresence in the restaurant, a jolly two-room joint in Maple Leaf whose teensy lobby could be three times the size and still overflow with takeout customers and waiting diners? If we said it’s an incomparable combo of all three…would you give us your last mu shu pancake? 8917 Roosevelt Way NE between NE 89th and NE 90th Sts, Maple Leaf, 206-528-5575; snappydragon.com. $

 

La Rustica Italian
When a fire temporarily shuttered this ristorante, 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. 4100 Beach Dr SW at SW Carroll St, West Seattle, 206-932-3020; larusticarestaurant.com. $$$

 

Marjorie Global 
Seattle has seen a number of Marjories: the cozy Belltown original, exotic as a gypsy caravan; the windowy quarters on Capitol Hill, which kicked culinary pretentions up a notch; and most recently the evolution of that space into a relaxed neighborhood charmer like the original. Owner Donna Moodie, one of the city’s genuine hosts, has warmed hard edges with pillows and exuberant color on azure walls; in summer the garage doors roll up and the happy -burble- from the bar and restaurant rolls out onto the patio. Across the alley, an adjunct space seats overflow or private parties. The menu pays globe--trotting homage to Italy (with dishes like porchetta and housemade gnocchi), India (tikka masala chicken), and the American South (Marjorie’s classic juicy pork shank with grits and greens and red-eye gravy); but the attention getter is a fat messy burger with aioli, harissa ketchup, and, if you want it, a distractingly thick slab of bacon. (Order early; the kitchen only produces 15 of these beasts a night.) The dessert menu may go beyond the bourbon brioche bread pudding, but we never have. 1412 E Union St at 14th Ave, Capitol Hill, 206-441-9842; marjorierestaurant.com. $$

 

Mioposto Pizza
The Mount Baker neighborhood has embraced the intimate light-drenched space with the wood-fired pizza oven, and why shouldn’t it? It’s just the kind of come-as-you-are-for-just-what-you-feel-like joint that raises community fellowship—and appetites. Mornings there’s egg dishes, buttery pastries, and plenty of Caffe Vita espresso, followed by counter-service pizzas, sandwiches, and salads all day. At dinner there’s table service for the same menu of simple Italian eats. Blue-ribbon toppings generally best crusts in the execution department, but that stops none of the families who cram the joint from toting their doggie bags across the street to Mount Baker Park. 3601 S McClellan St at S Mount Baker Blvd, Mount Baker, 206-760-3400; miopostopizza.com. $

 

Mondello Ristorante Italian
Magnolians are wild about their merry trattoria, swathed in the hues of clear skies and rosy sunsets, and accented with the homespun sorts of tchotchkes that give restaurants soul. Not that Mondello needed help with soul. Native Sicilians run the place, bringing a background burble of Italian to the house, which, combined with the lingua franca of classic Italian food (housemade pastas and zuppe and meaty secondi), makes Magnolia Village feel like a neighborhood in Palermo. We love the spaghetti gamberoni, served reliably hot with juicy prawns and layers of flavor, and the fish specials, lemony and elemental. 2425 33rd Ave W, Ste 3, Magnolia, 206-352-8700; mondelloristorante.com. Dinner only Sun. $$

 

St. Clouds Americana
There’s a whole lot of fuzzy neighborhood feeling where the wow! oughta be in Madrona’s kitchen
away from home, but you won’t hear a word of complaint from Madrona families. They can indulge both comfort--food and urban-contemporary cravings—from herbed roast chicken with mashed potatoes to a grilled steelhead over farro risotto—and their children will actually eat the pastas and quesadillas on the kids’ menu. Pour the parents a couple of Manhattans from the full bar and, while their kids are munching, they get to feel like adults for a blessed hour, nursing those cocktails to the strains of live jazz or blues. 1131 34th Ave, Madrona, 206-726-1522; stclouds.com. $$

 

Salvatore Italian
When Salvatore opened its doors at the corner of 61st and Roosevelt, it was one of dozens of neighborhood Italian joints with reasonable price points and a joyful excess of Chianti. Now, nearly 20 years later, Salvatore has proven itself an establishment of substance and staying power, thanks to Sal’s careful watch over every plate of clam linguine and vitello al limone that leaves his kitchen. Yep, that’s Sal over there at the grill; the guy all the regulars—and everyone’s a regular—like to saunter up to when they want extra anchovies in their aglio e olio. And a darned sure aglio e olio it’ll be, served by a crack old-school waiter with an impenetrable accent, a packed section, and a sheen of perspiration. He’s been working at least since the crowd began to gather on the sidewalk at quarter to five, and he’ll be running at least till the last diner stumbles home, drifting away on a fragrant cloud of sauteed garlic. 6100 Roosevelt Way NE Roosevelt, 206-527-9301; salvatoreristoranteitaliano.com. Closed Mon. $$

 

Vios Cafe and Marketplace / Vios Cafe at Third Place Greek / Deli
My big fat Greek deli: A festive family room of a spot importing all the community and color of the Greek marketplace to two locations. Walls drenched in the hues of olive trees and the wine-dark sea, lilting bouzouki music, long communal tables, a well stocked play area for kids, a deli counter, imported olive oils and pastas for sale, large-hearted employees—it all adds up to an aura of irresistible warmth, against which sandwiches, meze plates, salads, and meat dishes shine. The grilled and pita-wrapped chicken souvlaki, draped in bright tzatziki, is notable, as are more upmarket dinners. This owner founded Broadway’s El Greco; here, he manages to infuse Greek classics with his own distinctive flourishes. All that…and retsina too. Vios Cafe and Marketplace: 903 19th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-329-3236. Closed Mon. $$  Vios Cafe at Third Place: 6504 20th Ave NE, Ravenna, 206-525-5701; vioscafe.com. Open daily. $