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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Thu 5:00pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sun 5:00pm–11:00pm

Features Good wines, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Not accepted


3650 Wallingford Ave.
Seattle, WA
(206) 632-1000

10038 Main St.
Bellevue, WA
(425) 233-6040
Tue–Thu 5:00pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:00pm–11:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–10:00pm
Tuscan-influenced cooking that’s nearly worth the two-hour waits

Cantinetta is part of Seattle’s recent no-reservations trend. Waits can be over two hours, an experience that can be pretty unpleasant, as the restaurant is in the middle of residential Wallingford (not even a 7-Eleven within walking distance), and the bar area is too tiny to comfortably accommodate weekend crowds.

But Cantinetta is deserving of this loyalty. Organic local ingredients and Tuscan influences yield such excellent dishes as pappardelle lamb ragù with oxtail gnocchini. The kitchen creates interesting combinations (think avocado, grapefruit, and cured olives), and the house-made pasta can be revelatory, especially in bowls of broth.

Appetizers are some of the strongest dishes here, whether they’re light salads featuring fennel and beets or flavor nuggets like pancetta-wrapped dates with balsamic reduction. The wine list focuses on Washington State and Italy. It’s not particularly extensive, but it is carefully chosen.

As for the space, somewhere in Cantinetta’s back room is a dog-eared copy of Rustic Chic for Dummies: rough-hewn wooden tables, ogre-bludgeoning wood-and-wrought-iron chandeliers, wine bottles as decoration, curvy gilt mirrors, and black-and-white photographs of Roman alleyways. It’s all a little obvious, but also pretty and intimate nonetheless. And besides, the food’s so good that we’d show up even if it looked like the Olive Garden.

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