My favorite discovery from my last trip to Seattle was a new restaurant from Ethan Stowell, proudly waving the flag for regional Italian cuisine.
Roman cuisine, specifically. Rione XIII is inspired by Trastevere, one of my favorite Roman neighborhoods. Filled with the sleek, modern lines of a classy Seattle restaurant, Rione XIII is still warmed by truly Italian touches like the open kitchen and comforting splashes of color. And then there’s the food. And the wine list. Enough already!
The rest of this post is guaranteed to make you hungry.
We started with the classic Roman dish, Carciofi alla Romana. Crispy, salty, toothsome artichokes. I cannot say anything else about this dish without drooling on myself.
We followed this with another classic- the Pasta Amatriciana. I love the solid chew of the pasta, coated judiciously in a pancetta-tomato sauce. Dusted liberally with Pecorino Romano, of course!
Another Roman favorite is the egg and pancetta masterpeice known as “carbonara”. These Tonnarelli alla Carbonara were sublime- coated with that unctuous egg-yolk and punctuated by shards of cured pork. Again, the pasta was cooked to a perfect chewy done-ness with no trace of the (unfortunately) usual overcooked soggy starchiness. This is pasta cooking 101.
We also tried the Roman flatbread “street pizza” with anchovies and squash blossoms. The yeasty, crunchy base was the perfect delivery system for such creative and seasonal ingredients- I can see this will be a favorite throughout the year as I am sure the chef will continue to find ways to make the toppings unique and interesting.
In the end, even with such amazing food the wine geek in me wouldn’t be satisfied without an equally mind-blowing wine list.
Thankfully Rione XIIIhas Sennen David on board to put together one of the most intelligent regional Italian wine lists I have ever seen. Seattle is a great market for Italian wine, but Sennen David must be combing through import portfolios from all over the country to be able to piece this opus together. We were especially excited about this wine from Il Chiosso, a 100% Vespolina from the Colline Novaresi. This part of northern Piemonte is known for its lean, energetic red wines, full of verve and spice. I have usually seen them as blends of Vespolina, Nebbiolo, and even Croatina. Until this, I hand’t even tasted a wine made with only Vespolina, or in purezza, as the Italians would say…
The wine was darker than I expected it would be, full of bright red fruit with a serious mineral edge that carried the long finish. A perfect match for all of Lazio’sculinary delights floating out of Rione XIII‘s kitchen. Talk about a Roman holiday!