An elegant little hideaway in Post Alley, Il Bistro (Pike Place, 93A Pike St.; 206.682.3049; ilbistro.net) has served traditional Italian fare for 30 years. But recently the bistro acquired a new secret weapon: David Nelson (formerly of Tavern Law and Spur Gastropub) is now behind the bar, bringing his knack for creating cocktails (and a dedicated following) with him.
THE VIBE: Pull up a bar stool to watch Nelson craft your cocktail or grab a cozy table. The candle-lit atmosphere creates a quiet, intimate setting, perfect for dates. The pint-size bar takes advantage of every nook and cranny, so no huge parties here, but it’s inviting enough for a dozen people. Your drinking buddies will vary, though they’ll mainly consist of casually dressed 30somethings.
THE FOOD: Delizioso! The happy-hour and late-night menu offers small plates, such as the goat cheese crostini (topped with roasted garlic, basil and cracked pepper; $2.95) and the seared calamari (drenched in spicy tomato sauce, capers, olives and parsley; $4.95). The full menu (available at the bar) offers a broad range of Italian comfort fare, including cool insalatas and hearty pasta dishes.
THE DRINKS: Strong concoctions like the Hanky Panky (London dry gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca, orange twist; $9) and the Guido Contini (London dry gin, Carpano Antica vermouth, dark crème de cacao, angostora bitters; $9) will knock you off your stool. Also on the menu: Italian and local wines, and a wide selection of liquor and aperitifs.
THE BATHROOM: Warm and cozy: Tall, dark wood stalls and a simple dresser decked with flowers adds charm.