Rione XIII: Good with Reservations

The menu here offers some true winners—and several could-be-betters.

By Seattle Mag

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November 16, 2012

This article originally appeared in the December 2012 issue of Seattle Magazine.

Inspired by Trastevere, the 13th district (or rione) of Rome, Ethan Stowell’s latest endeavor lives in a casual, spirited corner dining room on the east side of Capitol Hill. Like Staple & Fancy Mercantile, Stowell’s Ballard restaurant, which shares a space with another eatery, Rione cohabits with The Wandering Goose café; an interior wall of reclaimed windows divides the two. And, as at Staple & Fancy, the menu here offers some true winners—and several could-be-betters.

Among the former: a perfectly cooked veal chop wrapped in crisp prosciutto, the veal inside still plenty pink, with sautéed escarole and fried sage leaves ($28). The bucatini Amatriciana—think thick spaghetti but hollow—is outstanding, dressed in a thick, unctuous sauce of guanciale (cured pork jowl) and tomato with a subtle chile backbeat ($14).

But then there are fried baby artichokes that had spent a minute or two too long in the fryer, and a radicchio salad in an anchovy dressing that was so acrid with raw garlic I worried I’d smell for days. Better: the cacio e pepe ($14), a traditional Roman pasta wherein cacio (Pecorino Romano cheese) and pepe (black pepper) work their wonders on tonnarelli pasta, a thicker, square-shaped spaghetti, that, as with all of the pasta here, is made at Tavolàta in Belltown. I just wish there hadn’t been such a large pool of butter at the bottom of the plate; cacio e pepe is a dish that’s meant to be on the dry side, an ideal foil for good Italian red wine (to that end, you’ll have good options in the $8–$12 per glass range). Service does a good job of handling the crowds; you’ll likely need a reservation for prime-time tables. Overall, as with many of Stowell’s places, I’d happily go back—not because it’s great, but because it’s fun, likable and I know now what’s best to order.

Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner nightly. Capitol Hill, 401 15th Ave. E; 206.838.2878; ethanstowellrestaurants.com $$