Cicchetti (chi-KET-tee) is all about hot food, good drinks, camaraderie - and the stylish spot behind sister restaurant Serafina in Eastlake is also very easy on the eyes. The name is the Italian term for small plates and tapas, and it is named after Venice's popular cicchetti bars, where patrons crowd in to eat and a drink standing at the bar or sitting at small tables. Hundreds of years ago the idea for cicchetti was brought to Venice by the Moors from Spain says Susan Kaufman, who owns both Serafina and Cicchetti.
As you walk in to the cool-modern space you appreciate that beloved Seattle architect George Suyama designed and built it for his firm’s office in 1984. Nothing spindly or boxy here, just strong, elegant, airy rooms that look out on Lake Union, Queen Anne hill and downtown Seattle. At night the windows are full of our city’s lights.
After she bought the building Kaufman had Suyama’s cohorts Jay Deguchi and Steven Lazen guide the building into a come-on-in restaurant and bar space with 80 seats. The main floor has three bar seating areas: one at the front door, a chef’s bar at the kitchen and a long wine and cocktail bar. Upstairs, where the views are the best, there is table seating for diners, cocktailers or private parties. From both levels you can’t help but see the 6-feet x 5-feet Venetian chandelier that Italian glass artist Antonio Seguso designed as he stood in the unfinished restaurant.
The Mediterranean food rocks here. You’d have to dislike eating to get out without snarfing down at least one or two dishes. There are house- pickled vegetables ($4), Octopus with salsa verde and chickpeas ($7), Chanterelle mushroom and fontina pizzas, big enough for 2-3 ($13), Turkish fried eggplant sandwich with feta and crudo tomato sauce ($6) , Portuguese baked clams with spicy sausage ($11) Sicilia), an orange and fennel salad with black olive and arugula $4 and much more. Start or finish with Ricotta fritters with huckleberry sauce ($7). All the hot dishes are cooked in the applewood-fired oven.
The bar menu is eight pages long, and the bartenders make infusions and tinctures (say, cardamom and mace) like mad alchemists. It would only be polite to try the Visigoth with its house-infused wolfberry whisky, dry sherry, Punt e Mes, lemon and bitters ($8), or the Rumbullion Mai Tai of silver and aged rums, lime, falernum and a float of dark rum ($7). Also sounding good is the Gin n’ Sin with lemon, grapefruit and local Scrappy’s grenadine ($7), and a couple of glasses of Mediterranean wine in the Quartino (two glasses) size.
Joe Fugere from Tutta Bella dropped in during the soft opening last week and he likes it, and so does almost everyone else who’s seen it. Let me know what you think.
Cicchetti (Eastlake) 121 E. Boston. 206.859.4155 Opens Tuesday, November 24 at 5pm.
www.serafinaseattle.com or (when live) www.cicchettiseattle.com