There's no shortage of new restaurants in Seattle. Lucky for us, not to mention convenient, as today is the third installment of Sarah's Dine & Dish and her theme this time around (last time it was Queens of Cuisine) is The Freshman. Sarah wanted us to go out and choose "a restaurant, joint, dive, hole-in-the-wall, any eating establishment that's in its first year. A rookie. A newbie."
Two of the latest arrivals to our Belltown neighborhood, 94 Stewart and Spice seemed tailor made for tonight's event. Alas, 94 Stewart is closed on Mondays. And even though Spice is opened every day, sounded like a lot of fun, comes highly recommended and it is only a couple blocks away on 5th Avenue, by dinner time I was more in the mood for Italian, pasta, for the familiar more than anything else. So I drove to Ballard instead for a leisurely supper at Volterra.
Chef Don Curtiss and wife Michelle Quisenberry opened Volterra last April and we loved everything about it (just look at their wine list!) from the first day we stopped by. And even though I've--sort of--already blogged about it I just could not think of a better example of the great bumper crop of amazing new restaurants opening up in the city and surrounding neighborhoods than this Tuscan inspired gem.
It must have been around 5:15 when I got there. Found parking right away, of all places, right in front of my other Ballard favorite hang out, La Carta de Oaxaca (last Tuesday, back from Los Angeles, this was my first stop, straight from the airport).
I went in and sat at the gorgeous stainless steel bar. Amy mixes what I am sure has got to be one of the most delicious (designed by Seattle's own Kathy Casey who not only the fairy matchmaker who introduced the owners but was the maid of honor at their Tuscan wedding and a regular at Volterra) cocktails in town: a Tuscan Limoncello Rosemary Drop (housemade Limoncello, Vodka, Fresh Rosemary, Lemon Sour, Rosemary Sugar-Rimmed Glass-$6) that's just heaven in a glass!
While chatting with Amy and Co., discussing AFI's favorite movie quotes and all sorts of this and that, nibbling on lovely bread dipped in olive oil I perused the enticing menu and went for the Sautéed Spinach (Spinaci alla Romana). This is a simple salad composed of sautéed spinach with dried currants, pine nuts and Tuscan organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($7). A hint of roasted garlic, the sweetness of the dried currants and my good friends the pine nuts. Mmm, it was lovely!
Out of all the fabulous pasta dishes to choose from it was Amy who gave me the last push to order the Little Ears in Lamb Ragu (Orechiette al ragu d'angello). The cute little ear pasta was tossed in a delicious lamb ragu, topped with black pepper studded Sicilian Pecorino ($13).
The ground lamb in the ragu made the sauce flavorful, even pungent but not overwhelmingly so and just right for this lover of all things lamb. Not overly garlicky, spicy or hot either. Just pasta (what a great job the orechiette's concave shape does in holding just enough bits of lamb morsels and delicious sauce!) cooked to perfection, topped with a gorgeous sauce and the finest of shavings of salty Pecorino.
Between the yummy food, plenty of hydration (read multiple glasses of water to dilute my 1 drink before allowing myself to drive back home in my new wheels) and great conversation I did not even notice I had finished most of the pasta. No leftovers, the horror!
By then I was not only really full but really tired from the long day that had started this morning around 4am. So with no time (or space) for one of my favorite Volterra's desserts (sticky, crunch Panforte, unctuous Vin Santo, creamy Tiramisu, luxurious Chestnut Panacotta) it was just coffee for me, with side of lemon peel (I coul eat a bucket of these beauties) and a lovely and crunch Italian cookie, of course.
With a freshman like Volterra, life, this side of Tuscany, è molto bella!
5411 Ballard Avenue NW
Seattle, Washington 98107
Monday thru Thursday 5pm – Midnight
Friday and Saturday 5pm – 1:00am
Sunday 4:00pm – 9:00pm
9:00am – 2:00pm
(Bar open all day Saturday and Sunday)
To try: Amy's Ultimate White Peach Thyme Bellini- White Peach Puree, Bitters, Fresh Thyme, Prosecco ($6) and Volterra Sky-Fresh Sage, Vodka, Orange Flower, Citrus, Blue Curacao ($6.5) which I was lucky enough to sample little sips of (thanks Amy!) were also delicious.