I have heard that Il Terrazzo Carmine is arguably Seattle’s best Italian restaurant. In my never-ending quest to find the best Italian food in this great city I can safely say that Il Terrazzo is up there in the rankings and makes it a point to pay great attention to detail not only in their menu but in the entire ambiance and dining experience. To achieve that effect, Il Terrazzo specializes in high-end Italian cuisine. Traditional spaghetti and meatballs will find no home on this menu.
Finding Il Terrazzo Carmine is something of a find itself. Nestled between the many bars of Pioneer Square and almost on the way to Safeco and Qwest Field you’ll find it in an understated office building. The restaurant itself is anything but plain. White linen-topped tables are dressed with beautiful dinnerware and overseen by servers in white jackets. I must also point out that you’ll find educated wait staff here. Not only will they correctly pronounce the Italian words, they possess a vast knowledge of the large wine selection.
Our first appetizer was actually a special, sautéed mushrooms (mostly chanterelles) in a light oil. This dish was even enjoyed by a member at our table who is a hard and fast non-mushroom eater. The mushrooms were meaty yet melted away in their buttery, oily sauce.
The second appetizer we sampled was Calamari Affogati. This dish is for the true lovers of calamari as you’ll find no fried squid accompanied by spicy marinara. The non-breaded calamari rings are sautéed with garlic, tomatoes, olives and capers. Feel free to take some bread and dip it in the broth. Only complaint here is that the calamari with the tentacles vastly overshadowed the calamari rings.
I chose an entrée that I simply don’t order enough, Cannelloni Fiorentina. Large pasta tubes are filled with veal, ricotta, and spinach and covered with a red sauce and parmesan cheese. Similar in style to an enchilada, this was the most appealing meal of the night. I made sure each bite I took was small so that I could savor the flavor as long as possible. With each bite I could taste the ground veal and creamy ricotta balanced with the blandness (used in a positive sense) of spinach.
Another dish worth notable mention was Capelline Di Mare. Capelline (thin) pasta is tossed in a light red sauce with prawns, mussels and clams. If you enjoy fresh seafood (and if you’re living in the Northwest you’ve got it made), then this is a spectacular dish for you.
Given that I’m generally very traditional in my tastes, I feel it’s necessary to first judge an Italian restaurant by the pasta it serves. I think things get too confusing when more exotic meats and various accompanying ingredients are thrown into the mix, burying the simplicity that is the foundation of most really good Italian meals. In the case of Il Terrazzo, they have achieved excellence in serving traditional pastas as well as creating more adventures entrees.
In closing, remember that quality comes with a price, and Il Terrazzo Carmine is no exception. Expect a hefty tab, especially if you order a bottle of good wine, cocktails, appetizers and a dessert. However, it’s worth the price because as soon as you leave you’ll be planning your return to this oasis for fine Italian cuisine.