7, 2002 — Sometimes
I fall so hard for a restaurant that it's nearly impossible to
write about it.
I recently encountered this rare problem while trying to
formulate my thoughts around Seattle's Osteria La Spiga.
I stared at the blank page, conjuring how best to compel you
to make the drive to Seattle and experience this exceptional,
traditional Italian osteria run by husband and wife Pietro and
Sabrina Borghesi. The couple sold traditional Romagnan
flatbread, or piadina, in Italy for several years before setting
up shop in Capitol Hill's Harvard Square with Sabrina's sister
My friend Susan introduced my husband and me to Osteria La
Spiga last year. She regularly visits friends in Italy and was
taking a class to bone up on the language. The instructor of her
class took the group to the restaurant to share with them truly
authentic Italian food.
And authentic it is. Down-to-earth yet elegant, this eatery
sparkles at every turn, serving specialties from Italy's
Simple fare is often more difficult to capture than
complicated cuisine, but La Spiga succeeds in serving
straightforward specialties that shine — at exceedingly
Osteria La Spiga
1401 Broadway Seattle
11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday 5:30 p.m. to 10
p.m., Monday through Wednesday 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.,
Thursday through Saturday
Traditional, authentic Italian like no one else. Simple
Romagnan dishes done right.
items sampled: Caprese con pomodori arrostiti $8
Lasagne verdi $9.50
Tagliatelle al ragu $8.50
Tortelli verdi ai formaggi $10.50
Gnocchi al pomodoro $9.50
di Ida $4.50
Panna cotta con caramello $4.50
Crostata alle albicocche e mandorle $5
I invited four friends to join my husband and me at La Spiga
on a recent Saturday night. Capitol Hill is notorious for
parking headaches, but the restaurant validates parking for the
garage beneath Harvard Market, making arrival a breeze.
We met for the first dinner seating at 5:30 p.m. and enjoyed
one of the spacious, long bench-like booths settled in among the
rustic decor of bricked arches and wrought-iron touches in the
cozy candle-lit dining room.
The eatery's menu is somewhat condensed: Choose from a
handful of starters, four salads, six entrees and one soup of
the day. But every single menu item is a winner, and nothing
more is needed to make La Spiga a satisfying, memorable dining
You won't find the over-abundance or excess that exists at so
many restaurants these days, and that's just fine with me. At La
Spiga, you're served just-right portions of food that is well
thought-out and prepared with care. All pasta and sauces are
made fresh in La Spiga's kitchen by well-practiced hands, and it
shows in every beautiful bite.
Our meal began with a long, narrow basket of complimentary
piadina cut into triangles, the same unleavened flat bread that
the Borghesis used to peddle in Italy.
With a taste and consistency along the lines of a thicker
matzo, each warm slice was crisp on the outside and soft and
slightly moist inside.
Several of us shared an appetizer of caprese con pomodori
arrostiti, fresh mozzarella layered beautifully on a simple
white china plate between generous slices of ripe house-roasted
tomatoes sprinkled with julienned basil and a drizzle of extra
virgin olive oil.
My friend Wes ordered my usual dish, tagliatelle al ragu, a
whirl of flat noodles dressed in La Spiga's hearty ground meat
and tomato sauce, then tossed with Parmigiano. This dish is so
simple, yet so sublime.
This time I strayed from my usual tagliatelle al ragu and
tried the tortelli verdi ai formaggi, green pillows of pasta
filled with four cheeses and tossed lightly in its house tomato
Each pouch was filled with a tangy mixture of cheese that was
balanced by an exceptional red sauce that doesn't rely on strong
spice, just clean, bright flavor.
Another of my culinary cohorts, Tasha, ordered the lasagne
verdi, very thin al dente layers of spinach pasta and La Spiga's
ragu mingled with besciamella sauce. She found the dish more
delicate than you usually think of with lasagne.
My remaining dining companions all settled on the gnocchi al
pomodoro, potato dumplings encased in La Spiga's spectacular
pasta and served in their fresh house sauce and tossed with
Gnocchi is so often cooked incorrectly, but La Spiga's
kitchen staff knows what it's doing. Every last round of potato
dumpling hit the precarious balance between tender and firm.
A bowl of freshly grated Parmigiano was placed on the table
for those who wanted to spoon a bit more on their already
liberally dusted entrees —
fitting, since Parmigiano-Reggiano
cheese originates from Emilia-Romagna.
We all agreed that the realistic portion sizes were compared
well to the often-oversized dishes found in many American
restaurants. This added to the authenticity of the meal and
resulted in a meal where we all left feeling pleasantly full but
We left room for dessert, because to not do so would be a
travesty at La Spiga.
You can't go wrong with any of the dessert selections. My
favorite is its panna cotta con caramello, or cooked cream with
caramel. Delicate and shimmering with a creamy texture, this
custard-like dessert is lavish yet light, served on a chilled
plate and swimming atop a divine caramel sauce.
Susan would disagree with me on this point, as La Spiga's il
mascarpone di Ida is by far her favorite dessert on the menu. La
Spiga's version of tiramisu is Pietro's mother's special recipe,
luscious layers climbing to the top of a deep cup and dusted
with cocoa powder.
Tasha chose the crostata alle albicocche e mandorle, an
apricot almond tarte with thin layers of apricot on the bottom
and ground almond filling on top, lightly crusted.
Served warm, it was robust enough to make a fitting fall dish
but, like everything we'd sampled at La Spiga, not overly heavy.
Sadly, the crescione alla nutella
La Spiga's crusty piadina
dough enveloping a rich layer of warm chocolate hazelnut spread —
wasn't available the night of our visit. Patrice and Wes
instead shared a serving of warm chocolate sponge cake drizzled
with raspberry sauce. The heat gave the middle a near fudge-like
consistency and taste.
We finished up the meal with cups of exceptional caffe
espresso and caffe della moka (made in an Italian coffee pot),
then made way for the waiting diners who had crowded on the
sidewalk outside over the course of our meal.
Word has certainly spread about this sensational restaurant
it was rated one of Seattle's 100 best restaurants in a recent
Seattle Weekly poll —
so call ahead for a reservation. And then
let me know if you've fallen as hard for Osteria La Spiga as I
Fine Print: I dine on my own dime. The opinions herein are mine
alone, not The Bellingham Herald's. Agree? Disagree? Please drop
me a line at StaceeSledge@hotmail.com.