On Thursday over lunch I was talking with Ed about the Italian food options available in Seattle. This must have stuck in the back of my mind, as driving home in the evening I turned to Lauren and asked “do you want to go to Café Lago this weekend?” A smile, nod, and a quick phone call secured us a prime 7:30PM Saturday evening reservation.
The Montlake neighborhood is not exactly flush with restaurants. The “main drag” consists of a brand new library branch, Fuel Coffee, the Montlake Bar & Grill, and Café Lago. So it’s no wonder that Lago, which boasts fabulous pastas and pizzas, a small but high quality wine list, and comfortable (almost minimalist chic) ambience packs in the local crowds. The atmosphere is casual but tasteful, and back in the day Gio dubbed it perfect for first dates (for posterity’s sake I’ll note that Lauren and I went there for date#4). On weekends, reservations are a must.
We started our meal with a bottle of Rosso de Montalcino and an order of “Pomodori al Forno.” They make their own variation of sun-dried tomatoes by soaking ripe Roma tomatoes in olive oil and then putting them into their wood-fired oven that they use to cook the pizzas. They are served with oil-soaked crostinis and a wheel of goat cheese, resulting in a delightful set of four create-your-own bruschettas 🙂
For the main course we ordered the two type of items that keep me addicted to Lago: a pizza and a pasta. The pizzas at Lago easily hold their own against any other restaurant in the city, the famed Via Tribunali included. For those that enjoy sausage, the Salsiccia is fantastic. Otherwise, go for the Caprino or the Giardiniere. We had a Giardiniere, and enjoyed the sweet peppers and onions, garlic, and mozzerella atop Lago’s signature tomato sauce. And with the size of the pizza we had enough to enjoy more for breakfast this morning 🙂
Usually Lauren and I will order the lasagna every time we dine at Lago, because it is the best lasagna in the city. The sheets of pasta and the marinara sauce are made in house, and the result is an amazingly light dish that you simply have to taste yourself to understand.
Last night we shook things up a little (but only a little) by ordering their ravioli. In many ways the ravioli was a shapeshifter of the lasagna. The pasta was thin, melt-in-your-mouth surrounding a mix of fresh ricotta, mozzerella, and pecorino cheeses. They were topped by the same delightful marinara sauce that is used in their lasagna. Lago’s pastas are arguably the best in Seattle and are definitely the best I’ve had since our return from Italy.
Even though we had to box up part of our entreés, we still had half a bottle of wine. So when they brought us dessert menus, we took our time and finally succumbed to the siren call of the Chocolate Truffle Cake. Usually we pass on dessert, but have been tempted to try some of the choices at Lago for years. We shouldn’t have waited so long. The Chocolate Truffle Cake lives fully up to its name, with a flaky texture that is firmer than mousse, and more like, well, a chocolate truffle. It’s topped with an espresso sauce and is both sinful and impossible to hold your fork back from just one more bite. I found out that all of the desserts are house-made, and I’m looking forward to sampling some of the other tempations.
Overall we had a very delightful meal. Chef-owner Jordi Viladas runs a quality operation, and I’ve had consistently top quality experiences at Café Lago, my one suggestion for them would be a little more variety. Not that I’m advocating a larger menu — part of what I love about Lago is the consistency of execution and eye for quality on everything from the wine list to the appetizers to the pizzas and pasts. But more of a rotation, perhaps seasonally, would help keep the choices fresh for the regulars. Just make sure to keep the lasagna on the list year-round!
2305 24TH Ave E (at E Lynn Street)
Seattle, WA 98112