Updated November 17th, 2021
Even if you’re a local, you can’t avoid Pike Place Market, a.k.a. the hub for Seattle tourism, overpriced produce, and crowds of zombie people waiting in line to get a watery coffee at the first Starbucks (which isn’t actually the first Starbucks). Maybe you have some out-of-town visitors who read in some magazine that Pike Place is the toast of the city’s cultural existence. Maybe you’re trying to impress a second date with a one-two punch of the aquarium followed by a Moscow mule at Rachel’s Ginger Beer. Or maybe you’ve shelled out $14 to ride the waterfront ferris wheel by yourself because you only live once.
But there is one reason that we’d tell you to intentionally go to Pike Place. And that reason is The Pink Door.
The Pink Door has been around since 1981 as Seattle’s burlesque-ish white-tablecloth Italian restaurant kingpin. But in 2017, they underwent some renovations that made the space more modern - like the addition of a full bar decked out with stained glass, an elevated stage for string quartets to play their fiddles, and a very nice patio. We loved the old Pink Door, but the new version is even better.
Beyond the unmarked, literal pink door, you’ll find an elegant circus-restaurant mashup, with low lighting, mural of a court jester, thick curtains, and nightly acrobatic talent swinging on silks above you and your linguine with clams. It’s a place for you to leave everything behind and escape real life for a night.
And it’s also a place for you to eat consistently excellent Italian food. Share plates like crudo and prosciutto/mozzarella, pastas we want to eat on loop all day, a damn good caesar salad, and fettunta, which is grilled garlic bread fit for adults who spend money on tableside bread because they feel like it (and because it tastes like char marks and top-tier olive oil). And then there’s the lasagna, which makes us want to grab our server’s collar, pull them dangerously close, and ask “what sorcery is this?!” because of how f*cking delicious it is in all its layered, besciamella-stuffed glory.
There is no wrong way to do The Pink Door, but generally assume it should be your special occasion go-to. In the winter, eat that lasagna with Negronis and a date inside. In the summer, secure some real estate on the covered deck with a view of Elliott Bay and a mannequin dressed like it belongs in a disco. Don’t let the tourist hellzone location that is Pike Place deter you - The Pink Door is more than worth braving the crowds, lack of parking, and medley of raw fish smells.
This is the caesar salad you want to eat. The dressing is creamy but not heavy, there are huge shards of Parmigiano, and the fennel-dusted croutons add an earthy crunch. At least one plate needs to hit the table.
The Pink Door’s Fettunta is grilled bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with “the finest of olive oils.” It’s magnificent in its oily, charred saltiness. This is a must-order, and it’s important to strategically eat it slowly so you can swipe it in the various sauces you’ll encounter during the meal.
Fresh ahi with lemon, fried capers, and smoked castelvetrano olives. A light summery appetizer that’s perfect for patio-eating with a glass of cold prosecco.
If you love bolognese so much that you have ground beef running through your veins, well, that sounds dangerous. But it also sounds like you’ll want The Pink Door’s bolognese: firm pappardelle, a creamy tomato-and-meat sauce, and a pile of Parmigiano shavings on top.
The spaghetti is cooked perfectly, but the red sauce and meatballs are not as flavorful as they could be. There are way better things to be had here, so you can safely skip.
This is the best lasagna in Seattle, and our favorite thing to order at The Pink Door. It’s fresh, toothy spinach pasta layered with besciamella and pesto, topped with marinara, and baked. It’s decadent but not overly rich, and there’s a certain magic that happens when all three sauces swirl together on your fork. Even if you order it for the table and everyone only gets one bite, you can not miss this.
Here we have baby clams in the shell, pancetta, garlic, chilis, and white wine. Some people really search for incredible linguine with clams - we found it, and you can stop looking now. When you get to the silky, smoky broth at the bottom of the bowl, it would be an opportune time to break out your hoarded fettunta and soak it up.