Things that will not happen to you at Il Terrazzo Carmine:
- Your waiter will not try to upsell you to a more expensive wine or entree
- Your waiter will not be either inappropriately familiar, nor will he or she be distant or hard to find when you need them
- Your food will not involve foam, xanthan gum or anything requiring "air quotes" on the menu
- You will not feel as if they can’t wait to get you out the door so they can turn one more table this evening
I could go on, but I think you get my point. Il Terrazzo, hidden in an office building in Seattle’s Pioneer Square, is a textbook of classic high-end Italian dining. While the beautiful people are out chasing some hot table where someone just won a James Beard award, the folks that are really in the know are dining beautifully without the hype.
Snacky Pants and I ate there Saturday night with my brother and his lovely girlfriend to celebrate her birthday. We started with a round of cocktails and an antipasto platter (which was customized to be vegetarian with no hesitation) and a wild mushroom ragout over polenta. The antipasto included slices of tomato, beets, fresh mozarella, grilled eggplant, and herby white beans, which we wiped up with the terrifically crusty house bread. The waiter also caught on right away that we wanted vegetarian appetizers and alerted us that the polenta was normally served with a demiglace but that they would leave it off.
For a second course, the womenfolk shared a Caesar (with anchovies in the dressing, not for me), while brother and I had grilled romaine with walnuts and a gorgonzola dressing. While good, the romaine was a bit too bitter though it balanced nicely with the sharp and creamy cheese.
My entree was the Gnocchi Sorrentino, which was a good bit tastier than yesterday’s playdough version. Just beautifully made pillows of potatoey pasta goodness with a flavorful tomato sauce full of parmesan. I was surprised at the large portion, I actually could have ordered the small plate and been satisfied. Brother ordered a steak which came with astounding shoestring fries, maybe 1/16" thick and crispy and salty and perfect. SP had wild salmon with a superb fried ball of mashed potatoes with a cheese center, like arancini riso but potato instead of rice. (Does anyone know what these are called? I’ve never had one before, but I’m thinking of trading several thousand dollars worth of Nigerian oil futures for another one). And girlfriend had risotto which I couldn’t taste but I heard good things. With the entrees we polished off a bottle of 2005 Lange Reserve Pinot Noir. For desserts we stuck to the classics, a flourless chocolate cake and a well made creme brulee in a shallow baking dish for maximum caramelized surface area.
There is something so utterly comforting about Il Terrazzo Carmine. It isn’t one of those rooms where you are sequestered in a quiet booth to have your feet gently massaged while your eggplant is harvested. It is a fairly loud, fairly large space. But after your first visit you simply know that you can put yourself in their hands. You don’t have to be on the defensive looking for them to put you at a crappy table or bring one person’s entree ten minutes after everyone else is served. Everything is going to be done with class, the food will be cooked with confidence and care, and you will have as leisurely a meal as suits your mood. I’m particularly firm on that last point. If I’m spending serious ducats for dinner, I don’t want to be rushed in and out. This is my entertainment and event for the evening, and I want to savor it with my family and friends. Il Terrazzo understands that like very few restaurants in America.
The total for 4 drinks, one $55 dollar bottle of wine, 2 appetizers, 2 salads, 4 entrees, 2 desserts, 4 coffees and including tax and tip came to $336, or just about $84 per person. Expensive, but to my way of thinking absolutely worth every penny.
Il Terrazzo Carmine
411 First Ave. S. (near Pioneer Square)
Seattle, WA 98104
Free validated valet parking in the garage in back