Everyone in Seattle knows that Il Corvo is the kingpin of pasta in this town, and for good reason. They put things like squid ink and farro in their dough and time stops when you eat it, so the pasta pretty much deserves its own documentary. And all of the incredible noodles, from bolognese to hazelnut pesto, only cost about ten bucks a bowl.
But the physical act of coming here for a meal is the restaurant equivalent of showing up at the DMV without an appointment. The lines are insane, they close at 3pm, and they’re not open on weekends. Il Corvo is delicious, but it’s more than a little inconvenient to eat here. So the next time you want some really good pasta for dinner, use our guide to other excellent Italian standbys. The pasta at these places is almost as life-changing as Il Corvo’s, and you won’t have to wait two hours on a Tuesday afternoon to get it.
Technically, we’re not going to crown any winners here because this isn’t a jousting tournament, but if we had to award a grand champion for this guide, it would be Esters. Their entire operation is pretty laid-back, the excellent carbonara and bolognese pastas are only $10 ($8 during happy hour), and everything is delicious in here - even the vegan kale caesar. If you’re not vegan, add some smoked Beecher’s-stuffed arancini or the addictive duck fingers.
Part of the beauty of Il Corvo is that you get such high-quality food at a low price point. But if you show up at Artusi (Spinasse’s sister spot) on a Sunday or Monday night, you can get two pastas and an entire bottle of wine for $35. You’ll still have to wait, but not for two hours outside in the rain. Plus, outstanding bowls of cavatelli with carrot-bacon ragu, or pici with mushrooms and kale are more than worth it. Even if you add an order of arancini, your bill won’t be more than $55. The only hard part is choosing who to come with.
Aziz Ansari once showed up to Il Corvo at night, totally unaware that they close at 3pm. If that happened to you too, you probably need someone to take care of you (a.k.a feed you some hot, tasty pasta). Go to Le Messe. Sit at the chef’s counter, and watch as the cooks swirl rigatoni around in hot pans. Eventually, they’ll slide a plate your way. It’s going to be OK.
Raccolto is from the same team as Le Messe, so you can expect a similar pasta situation all around, though it’s not as good except for the cacio e pepe, which is like mac and cheese for royalty. And if you want to use your fork as a magical scepter and tell your friends to bow before you and your cavatelli, by all means.
Bizzarro Italian Cafe is where circus horror movie set meets awesome checkerboard-tablecloth Italian spot. We were skeptical of the fact that there’s a ton of chandeliers and a bicycle dangling from the ceiling, and that the menu has an entree called “choose your own chicken adventure.” You’ll find, just like we did, that the weird carnival props hanging above you paired with the really solid handmade pastas just work.
If you’re an Il Corvo fan because of how the pasta makes you feel alive inside, you’d like Tavolata. It’s becoming a Seattle institution, which probably has to do with the fact that the people behind it know their way around a bag of semolina. Anything containing tomato or potato gnocchi automatically is our favorite dish here, but there are plenty of other options, too. Plus, the space works really well for fitting everyone you know - which we can’t say about Il Corvo, unless you want everyone else inside to hate you.
Much like Il Corvo, Agrodolce mills their own flours and shoves random ingredients in their pasta dough, so you’ll notice anything from emmer wheat rigatoni and arugula cavatelli to black pepper spaghetti. You’ll probably end up sitting on a bench crowded with decorative pillows, or at a table underneath the tree casually planted in the center of the restaurant, which is to say that it’s an ideal spot for an early-in-the-game date.
The team behind Il Corvo used to have a pizza spot, too, but it closed because the world is cruel. So if you’re feeling nostalgic and want a pizza along with some fresh pasta, Bar Cantinetta is a good thing to do for yourself. Pasta-wise, get some amatriciana if they have it, and you can’t go wrong with a squash blossom pizza on the side.
San Fermo is a romantic little Italian spot located in a retrofitted historical home, and while we would come in just for some chickpea flatbread and charcuterie, their pastas are also excellent. We’re mainly talking about the saffron spaghetti bolognese and the bucatini alla gricia, but really anything you order is going to be really good paired with some wine or a brown liquor cocktail.
Pasta Casalinga closes at 5pm every day, but 4:30 still counts as dinner for some people, so we’re letting it slide. You won’t mind the early bird special when you realize that their pastas are tasty, inexpensive, and made by actual Italian people. The menu is pretty short and changes every two weeks, but you’ll always see a vegetarian option, something meaty, something with seafood, as well as a daily mushroom lasagna. Don’t skip the warm slice of crostata for dessert.