In Seattle, a big bowl of hot pasta is a basic human right. Since we willingly choose to live in a place that is gray, moist, and slightly passive aggressive (and with many clouds of gnats), it’s important that you find something on this weird little isthmus that makes you feel like you’re being cuddle-puddled by a dozen hyperactive pomeranians instead of crumbling on the ground and splaying across the pavement in SAD-fueled apathy.
That thing is Cascina Spinasse.
Spinasse is the best fork-up-your-money Italian restaurant in this city. The dining room has this old-school meets new-school feel (enough reclaimed wood to distract your friend who has an Etsy shop, but also a marble bar and decked-out open kitchen), the service is perfect, and the homemade pastas taste so good we end up not speaking to anyone we came with. When incredible ricotta cavatelli with braised beef is in front of you, whatever you or anyone else has to say is really not important.
This restaurant is not a secret - so get a reservation unless you want to try your luck at bar seats. In the sunny summer months (when fried zucchini blossoms are on the menu - get them), ask for a table near the window for your date, parents dinner, or throw-down group hang. You can’t go wrong with anything involving pasta here, but if you stare at the menu as long as you would a page in “Where’s Waldo” and still can’t decide what to order, there’s a prix fixe option that incorporates every appetizer, pasta, and entree Spinasse offers in a family-style tasting.
Yes, your wallet might be significantly emptier at the end of it. But given how life-affirming a meal at Cascina Spinasse can be, it’s a whole lot cheaper than therapy. Or moving to California.
Ask for extras.
We would eat this even if we had to use a paint stick to scrape it off of a parking lot. Crushed english peas, homemade ricotta, olive oil, and lemon served with bread for spreading. If you come here when peas are in season, you’re getting this, and don’t be surprised if when the bread’s gone, you just resort to your spoon/tongue.
It is near-impossible to find fried zucchini blossoms anywhere in Seattle, but Spinasse gets it. Usually a summer item, the squash flowers are stuffed with ricotta and lemon, battered and fried in a snack form you should be having with wine.
Chicory is a fancy name for radicchio, which is also a fancy name for radicchio. This salad has parmesan shavings and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette. Not necessary, but a nice basic plate of leaves that won’t fill you up before dinner.
A Spinasse staple, and with good reason. This pasta cures whatever seasonal affective disorder you have that gives you awful winter emotions. It’s a pitcher’s mound of extremely thin egg noodles covered in a bolognese that isn’t too heavy on the tomato but is heavy on the deliciousness. If the cavatelli isn’t on the menu, get this.
Stop what you’re doing and order this. This is Cascina Spinasse’s best dish. Perfect ricotta cavatelli pasta with tender braised beef in a saucy situation topped with roasted cherry tomatoes and a big “here ya go” of parmesan cheese. This is usually only available in the summer and if it’s on the menu you’re not leaving until you eat it.
Probably only get this if you’re vegetarian. It’s with a ramp ragu (which is good) and castelmagno cheese (which is weird). If you like cheeses that smell like feet, this is the gnocchi for you.
This is one of the most interesting fish dishes we’ve had in Seattle, and it’s excellent. Pan-seared cod on top of red rice grits and topped with a spicy salsa verde poured over the top. It’s creamy and comforting but light at the same time. If you’re not into pasta, you suck. But it also means that you’ll want this.
Just get it. Our favorite combo? Mascarpone gelato with orange sorbetto - AKA Italian creamsicle.