Mediterranean flair on Eastlake
Special to The Seattle Times
You've driven past it a thousand times, that unremarkable storefront on Eastlake, and dismissed it as it fades in the rearview mirror. Stop sometime; go inside. Turns out Pomodoro is one of Seattle's underappreciated gems.
Logistically speaking, all the stars are aligned: It's open every night, it's on the way to everywhere, parking (in the covered lot alongside) is free. Inside it's a remarkably intimate hideaway, romantic even, despite the cars whooshing by and the open kitchen. The kitchen in fact adds to Pomodoro's European mystique. Peek over the pony wall and you can spy the chef poking at the pasta in his enormous cauldron or grilling up a mess of garlic shrimp. You can almost smell the Mediterranean.
Indeed, the menu features a dozen-plus tapas and two-dozen pastas and mains (including, always, fresh fish). It's a nice blend: the tapas lending the exotic allure that only anchovy-stuffed olives and sherry-sautéed mushrooms and paprika-sprinkled octopus can properly impart; the pastas — a Southern-Italian-leaning list of cannellonis and linguines and raviolis — accessible enough for timid palates but executed with real distinction.
What it all adds up to, this masterful food and creamy-dreamy ambience, is the feeling of having really been out for the evening. (There's even a gratis cup of palate-cleansing sorbet presented between courses, just like in the fancy joints.) With prices hovering between $10.95 and $18.95 for mains, however, you won't break the bank on a visit.
Which — along with the full bar and rich (if oversweet) Grand Marnier chocolate mousse cake for dessert — makes Pomodoro an ideal setting for, among other things, a reasonably optimistic second date.
Pinchito Española: Two skewers of broiled pork tenderloin arrived suffused in paprika and cooked to a tender turn, staining the bread beneath it a glorious garlicky orange and making for a slow explosion of deep, gentle, burning splendor on the palate.
Gambas al Ajillo: The kind of dish that gives tapas its fine reputation, this one features six plump prawns sautéed ever so gently with garlic, garlic and garlic. The prawns can't wait to burst on your tongue, and you can't wait to swab pieces of bread in the oily residue. (Too bad the bread is ordinary.)
Cannelloni Rossini: A solid rendition of a classic crowd-pleaser, with uncommonly delicate pasta stuffed with beef, pork and ricotta, and topped with light béchamel and Parmesan.
Risotto al Emperador: A terrific daily special showcased chunks of fresh sockeye salmon, bay shrimp, tomatoes and peas among the arborio rice, but the real star of the show was the heartbreaking Spanish saffron, which turned this dish into an intelligently abridged paella. A flawless achievement and beautiful besides, with two roasted red peppers and a stuffed-olive headdress.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Pinchito Española $6.95
Gambas al Ajillo $7.95
Cannelloni Rossini $11.95
Risotto al Emperador $18.95
Kathryn Robinson: KathAnRob@aol.com
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