You know Il Corvo. It’s a pasta spot in Pioneer Square that’s nearly perfect. You only pay $10 for a big hot bowl of carbs that could ruin all other big hot bowls of carbs moving forward. The downside is that there’s always a line snaking down the street, and they’re only open for lunch on weekdays. So when we heard that the Il Corvo team opened a full-scale restaurant where you could theoretically eat the same flawless pasta on nights and weekends, we thought it seemed too good to be true.
Unfortunately, it is.
The first key to eating at Il Nido, located in the renovated Alki Homestead cabin in West Seattle, is to try and forget that they also own Il Corvo. You’ll be disappointed when you try the pasta and realize that it doesn’t compare to the stuff you can get for lunch. The pasta here is almost three times as expensive, comes in significantly smaller portions, and just isn’t as good. We’ve eaten pasta at Il Nido where the sauce has quickly separated into a pool of oil, a bland squid ink conchiglie that we couldn’t imagine ordering again, and a chewy, undercooked bucatini all’amatriciana with a tomato sauce that tastes like burnt guanciale grease.
There are some delicious things on the menu, though. The cocktails and spritzes are all terrific, especially paired with the bruschetta al lardo (crunchy toasted focaccia slices topped with melty pork fat). They’re so good that we’d happily sit at the bar anytime and snack on them alongside a grapefruit gin and tonic. The seared ribeye has a beautifully-charred crust and excellent garlicky, rosemary flavors. Any pasta involving braised meat or the ricotta cavatieddi (doughy, pillowy tubes) is rich and flavorful. You should know that the pasta options change all the time - so the excellent cavatieddi might not even be available the night you’re there. Which is frustrating considering what it takes to have dinner here.
You’d think that since Il Nido takes reservations, you wouldn’t have to deal with the crazy waits that happen at Il Corvo, but it’s still somehow just as inconvenient. Take a look at your calendar and count out 30 days from today. They’re booked solid until then - your only hope is to log onto your computer at midnight and make an online reservation a month before you want to go. You could try to get there when they open at 5pm, but if the bar is full, you’ll have to sit at a strange two-person church pew table in the corner. When we ate at this tiny end table, we had to keep our wine glass on a windowsill behind us because the table could only fit two plates.
If you managed to secure a regular table without a problem, you’ll be in the main dining room, which feels a bit like a glamping cabin. When the sun goes down, you’ll look around with a mouthful of red wine-braised beef and realize why people would stay up until midnight and plan dinner here four weeks in the future.
If someone else goes through the trouble to make a reservation here and you’re lucky enough to get invited, you should go. If that same person offers to throw down their credit card after dinner, don’t get in their way. But if you decide to book a table and pay your own money for an expensive meal here, it’s not going to live up to the expectations of Il Corvo 2.0. In fact, it’s not even close. You’re better off lining up in Pioneer Square at 10:30am for the best pasta $10 can buy. We’ll be right behind you.
The menu changes often, but here’s a snapshot of what you might see.
Sometimes, this focaccia stuffed with olives or tomatoes (depending on the day) comes to the table cold and stiff. With a very small portion for $8, you should get the bruschetta instead.
These toasty focaccia shards are topped with whipped pork fat that melts on the bread like hot cheddar and enough edible flowers to make a bouquet for Barbie & Ken’s third wedding. They’re pretty mandatory for the table - especially if you’re ordering a round of spritzes.
The greens in this salad are more bitter than Amy Adams must be for not having won an Oscar yet. The anchovy dressing is delicious and has a good balance of acid and creaminess, but we wish there was more of it to counteract all of that bitterness.
If you’re obsessed with mushrooms, you’ll enjoy the sauce that comes with these pasta sheets. If you think about mushrooms less than twice an hour, you can probably skip this - the pasta doesn’t absorb the sauce, and while the thought of an olive oil-poached egg yolk sounds fantastic, this pasta kind of reminds us of stroganoff once you mix everything up. Also, it’s $28.
The portion on the rigatoni is pretty small, but the tender black pepper braised beef ragu is incredible. We’d order two plates if it wouldn’t end up costing us $48 before tax.
We’re not fans of this riff on all’amatriciana. It’s made with cherry tomatoes instead of canned ones, there’s an overwhelming burnt bacon grease aftertaste from the guanciale, and the pasta tends to be undercooked.
This is by bar the best thing here - the ricotta cavatieddi is soft, pillowy, and clings nicely to the pomodoro sauce. More than half the times we ate here this pasta wasn’t on the menu. If they’re serving it when you’re there, though, get it.
The squid ink conchiglie is a big miss. The pasta is undercooked, the tomato broth doesn’t have much flavor, and the pieces of Dungeness crab don’t do much but hike up the price tag.
The ribeye has a great charred crust on the outside that tastes garlicky and herby. Order the chicoria al’agro (spicy lemony chicories) with this for a really good meal.
These chicories are lemony, a little spicy, and are the perfect vegetable to order with any pasta or main.