SEAReview

photo credit: Nate Watters

A spread of Italian snacks, like whipped cod topped with ikura, cavatelli, a meatball, a bowl of clams, prosciutto, panna cotta, and a dark chocolate cake topped with mascarpone cream.
8.2

Lioness

ItalianWine Bar

Phinney RidgeGreenwood

$$$$Perfect For:Small PlatesDrinks & A Light BiteDate NightDrinking Good WineDessert
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Any Italian wine bar can serve some fizzy Campari business alongside appetizers that merely require assembly. But Lioness in Phinney Ridge is a prosciutto-wrapped gift to North Seattle—and makes aperitivo hour actually exciting.

The galley-style space feels effortlessly cool, like Ray-Bans or anyone who rides a Vespa. A soundbath of date night chatter swirls with high-BPM tunes. Flickering tea candles and a couple of chandeliers are the only light sources. The marble standing-only bar makes sitting seem passé, as folks mingle and sip frothy garibaldis, buddha’s hand-infused spritzes, or martinis so squeaky clean you could mop the floor with any rogue sloshes. And it takes serious restraint to not flip over the olive green-freckled ceramic to learn who the heck designed such criminally adorable plates. 

Marble bar with cured meat slicer, shelves of liquor, hanging pots and pans, and chandeliers.

photo credit: Nate Watters

Dark chocolate cake topped with mascarpone cream

photo credit: Nate Watters

Brick patio with terrazzo bistro tables

photo credit: Nate Watters

Spread of Italian snacks

photo credit: Nate Watters

Interior of dimly lit bar, with a row of tables and candles

photo credit: Nate Watters

Marble bar with cured meat slicer, shelves of liquor, hanging pots and pans, and chandeliers.
Dark chocolate cake topped with mascarpone cream
Brick patio with terrazzo bistro tables
Spread of Italian snacks
Interior of dimly lit bar, with a row of tables and candles

The bites served on that dishware go way beyond the call of small plate duty. A would-be-boring ball of lemon-oiled burrata has a surprising kick and salumi is shaved thinner than parchment paper, an achievement in salt-cured pork we wish more restaurants gave a damn about. Past the excellent drinks and starters, we’d pump the brakes for the most part, since the larger items can be underwhelming (we’re looking at you, $18 overspiced meatball).

If you’re only in it for the lighter bites anyway, that should soften the blow of the hassle it takes to get in. With limited reservations, you can expect to wait upwards of 45 minutes for a table, even on a weekday. But it’s worth it for a night out fueled by falanghina and salami—stick it out and snack on.

Food Rundown

Ball of burrata topped with lemon zest, calabrian chile, and a ciabatta toast slice

photo credit: Nate Watters

Burrata

Have you ever ordered burrata at a wine bar only to discover that it was just burrata? Well, Lioness’s take is more than “just burrata,” with pops of calabrian chile and lemon oil that pool with the stracciatella when you crack it open. Tack on an order of prosciutto, plop it all on fluffy toasted ciabatta, and you have an unstoppable drinking snack.

Tin of black cod mousse topped with ikura, served with pecorino cracker shards

photo credit: Nate Watters

Smoked Black Cod Mousse

We’d order this creamy fish dip purely for the nutty pecorino cracker slabs that come on the side—if only they were packaged in a cellophane bag to-go, you could catch us later in front of the TV covered in crumbs. A snapped shard spread with mascarpone-spiked cod puree and some ikura is a great bite of food, provided you don’t happen upon a piece of cracker that has too much flaky salt. Luck of the draw, we guess.

Bowl of clams topped with salsa verde, a lemon half, and a ciabatta toast slice

photo credit: Nate Watters

Clams

Don’t underestimate the power of a dependable bowl of clams. These Hama Hama manilas are tender and plump, drizzled with a punchy salsa verde, and served in a soothing anise-y broth that requires an extra slice of crusty toast for critical absorption.

Meatball in a bowl with marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, and a slice of ciabatta toast

photo credit: Nate Watters

Beef & Pork Meatball

Besides the fact that this is a solitary meatball for $18, the meat crumbles like brown sugar upon fork contact, and there’s an aggressive dried herb in there that makes the whole thing bitter and taste like a spice cabinet accident. Steer clear altogether.

Cavatelli with lemon zest and sage

photo credit: Nate Watters

Cavatelli Pasta

It’s refreshing to see this wildly underrepresented pasta shape in Seattle—but Lioness’s version is kind of a snooze. Despite the well-intentioned efforts of lemon, pecorino, sage, and approximately seven pistachios, the flavors are far too muted to cling to the cavatelli’s doughy ridges.

Dark chocolate cake topped with mascarpone espresso cream

photo credit: Nate Watters

Dark Chocolate Cake

Here’s a brownie that got a doctorate. Crackly on top and fudgy in the center, this chocolatey wedge is already freaking perfect—and the barely-sweetened mascarpone whip flecked with ground espresso cuts through the decadence of it all. Do not skip dessert.

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