There are two ends of the good Italian restaurant spectrum. On one, you have the classic kind of red-sauce joint: checkerboard tablecloths and the tarantella playing in the background, your choice of “house red or white,” and always a bread basket served with those little butter packets that you feel self-conscious about using six of for one slice of baguette. On the other end, you have the ball-out Italian restaurant: bottarga and truffles rain from the air vents, they serve (insert unusual animal ragu) gnocchi that costs $30, and they send you home with your own ball of burrata or a Sicilian bride as a souvenir.
Contadino is the happy middle ground of Italian restaurants: a killer pasta spot where you don’t have to take out a second mortgage to order the market fish, or dust off those shoes you only force your feet in for special occasions. You can even wear your rank Toms with that hole in the pinky toe if you really want. But please don’t.
One important thing to know before we go any further. There are two sides to Contadino: the pasta side, and a pizzeria next door, aptly named Pizzeria Contadino. As much as we love the pasta side, the pizzeria doesn’t even compare. The vibe is cold and dark and the pizzas are just like your first kiss: disappointing and kind of sloppy.
Now that that’s out of the way, back to praising Contadino’s pasta side. The space is small and intimate-feeling, with a long bar and white marble tables (which scientifically means you’re in for something fancy). But the incredible handmade pastas will only set you back $17 at most, or you could put together a light dinner/happy hour situation with a few great small plates, from grilled asparagus to oysters to crudo to house-cured meats. It’s all super laid-back - you don’t feel the need to sit up straight or pronounce your wine order correctly here. But please try.
The service is fantastic, the owner will probably head to your table to shoot the breeze, and if you have a party of around six, you can reserve the semi-private table in the back room for a birthday or vibey group hang. This is one of our favorite new restaurants in Seattle, and you’re going to want to reach for it more often than the two extreme sides of the Italian restaurant spectrum. We promise you won’t even miss those butter packets.
If there’s crudo on the menu, get it. This one was opah (yes, that’s a fish) with olive oil/vinegar and topped with an apple and celery slaw. Even if you’re not into raw fish, pretend it’s not raw fish and order it.
You might feel the need for a vegetable on the table, and the grilled asparagus here is always a winner. The accompaniments rotate, but no matter if it’s with brown butter/lemon/parmesan or salsa verde/chile, it’ll be excellent.
All of the homemade pastas here are great, but the leader of the pack is anything that has pork and some kind of green thing. The strozzapreti is like an equivalent sign (that’s ~, for anyone else who does not remember anything about high school math) in noodle form, the meat has a nice kick to it, and even though there isn’t any tomato or cream, there’s this silky sauce that coats the pasta and tastes like something only an Italian mom would know how to figure out. A must-order. Lick the plate and don’t share this.
A well-seasoned filet of salmon with crispy skin and a side of melted leeks and mushroom with lemon. This is not on the menu anymore, but we ate this so that we could tell you: Contadino makes a killer piece of fish.
This could have been listed as “springtime and joy on a plate.” Seared halibut over english peas, chives, and an addicting broth that we also tried to lick.
One of the richest, creamiest, stomachache-inducing pudding things we’ve ever eaten. It’s delicious.