Sarina and I had dinner tonight at Dinette, on Seattle’s Capitol Hill in the space formerly occupied by the departed and lamented Green Cat Cafe. Dinette was much noticed when it first opened for chef Melissa Nyffeler’s collection of antique serving platters that grace the walls, the mismatched place settings, and her penchant for serving delicious bites of food on toast, which occupies its own whole section of the menu before the salads. In some restaurants this might come across as a gimmick, but at Dinette it simply feels warm and personal, not at all pretentious.
The toast items are made from crusty Columbia City Bakery sourdough, and are all priced at $5 per piece. We started with two slices topped with creamy, buttery Bellwether Farms‘ Crescenza and eggplant caponata. The caponata was agrodolce style, mildly sweet and sour and a very nice way to wake up our palates and begin the meal.
Our second course was a simple butter lettuce salad with radishes and cucumbers, and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. The vegetables were impeccable, fresh, clean, and neatly mandolined, and the dressing tasted delicious, albeit more of fresh lemon juice than preserved lemon. I’d like to see them take this flavor up just a notch.
For entrees we tried both of the vegetarian pastas. SP had the ricotta gnocchi with leeks and cherry tomatoes in a white wine and garlic broth, and I had the trofie with kale, and radicchio minus the prosciutto, and also served in a broth. Both were solid, competent and tasty dishes that didn’t quite knock our socks off, although the fresh ricotta on top of the trofie was delicious. For my 2 cents, the gnocchi could be a bit more tender and it probably would be better not to have both dishes in very similar sauces.
Service was wonderful. Our waiter was charming and when I told him that I would love a second glass of Sangiovese but that I couldn’t since we had to make an early night of it, he instantly offered a half a glass. There was something so impromptu and warm about that gesture that really showed the personal character of Dinette. Seattle is experiencing a renaissance of small restaurants where the owner and/or chef’s individuality can be expressed. As much as I love some of the 100+ seat venues in town, I find these idiosyncratic holes in the wall to be much more interesting. You feel as if you ate somewhere, not just anywhere.
Our total for 2 people including tax and tip came to $82, a reasonable price for a very pleasurable meal.