If you find yourself craving super fresh seafood and decadent pasta at the same time, Cinque Terre Ristorante will serve you a superb Italian meal straight out of your olive-oily dreams—but it will come at a price.
Most days I like to think of myself as #badandboujee but when I’m being honest with myself, I’m pretty far from living any kind of bougie lifestyle. I’ll take the $12 plate of tacos over a seven-course French meal every time. I just can’t help but be pragmatic; it’s like my dad is constantly in my ear saying, “you spent how much on your skincare line?!”
But I’m also not going to turn down a fancy pants meal when it’s a working lunch (and therefore, I won’t have to reach for my wallet). Which is how I ended up at Cinque Terre Ristorante—an Italian restaurant in downtown Seattle right down the street from my office. I’d never before gone into this pasta heaven because hello, none of its name is in English—it’s like a flashing neon sign saying, nice try Nadia, you can’t afford me. And my sneaky suspicions were right: it’s out of my comfort zone when it comes to prices (i.e., exceeds the taco plate test).
But damn, that was some good pasta.
Money Score: Okay
My plate of pasta was $26. It had fresh crab in it, house-made noodles, and the sauce sent me soaring, but $26 is pretty steep lunch price. That being said, the top of the menu says Farm to Table and then lists 10-plus farms where they source their ingredients (and you can taste the freshness), and the bread and pasta are made from certified organic flour. And other hand (how many hands can I have to keep presenting my points), entrees run up to $90 for a 32-ounce steak. I had been eyeing a seafood soup that is loaded with lobster, clams, mussels, octopus, prawn, pollock, and calamari but that would have been a cool $42 commitment. (Seeing as I almost jumped out of my seat exclaiming that price point, I didn’t fit in too well here.)
Consciousness Score: Excellent
Like I mentioned earlier, the farm-to-table is not a schtick—they name every farm on the menu. And I love that the menu is rooted in tradition (with modern flair). Cinque terre (five lands) is an area of the Italian Riviera, the site shares, comprised five villages where seafood is prevalent and pesto is the law of the land. Both of these are available in abundance everyday at the restaurant.
They also don’t hesitate to share on the menu that it is owned by a first-generation Italian immigrant family of three brothers. Seeing as my own parents immigrated to the U.S., this is a story after my own heart. Dining here felt more special after reading this. It must be these feels that they infuse in their daily-baked (and complimentary) bread that nearly brought me to tears.
‘All the Feels’ Score: Good
Protip: Sit at the kitchen counter. While we only sat here because the rest of the restaurant was reserved, I’m happy we ditched the tables and opted for a show. I got to watch them grill marinated Mediterranean octopus and place atop a pile of mashed potatoes as they carefully assembled the Polpo Mario garnished artfully with microgreens, lemon and paprika. I previewed most dishes as they sliced, chopped, grilled and plated right in front of me (instead of leaning out of my chair to make a neighboring table uncomfortable while deciding if I want what they have). Everything looks amazing though. There’s a reason their website has a photo gallery.
I saw one chef turn to another and decide the dish they had prepared didn’t have enough fish to serve to the customer, so he carefully placed two more slices on the crusty bread. It’s this attention to detail that makes me understand why it’s a pricier place, and simultaneously sends me into dreams of going to culinary school.
It looks bougie, though (and if you’re into that, this is for you). Like the Daughters of the American Revolution would lunch here with white wine spritzers in hand as they turned their noses up at people like me who could be just as happy with an endless breadstick basket (#olivegardenloverforlife). The space is bright and airy with plenty of booths and tables; on one side of the room spot a Champagne display (hard not to order it for lunch when it’s presented so proudly). Each place setting includes a glass for sparkling water (complimentary) and wine—so yes, I ordered wine at lunch. And the giant Marra Forni brick pizza oven sits prominent behind the counter, another reminder of their traditional fare.
To drink: A sparkling Cremant and Chianti Rufina, a classic red that pairs nicely with seafood.
The complimentary fresh-baked bread is made in-house with USDA certified organic flour and delivered to your table with spiced olive oil right after you sit down. I took organic to mean healthy, and packed away as much bread as possible (they brought another plate of bread with the meal later). I truly want to go back just to order this, but then I’m the sad lady who comes to fancy restaurants to only eat free bread (is that allowed? I’m willing to let my rep take a hit).
Rigatoni al granchio
Large rigatoni noodles with rich Dungeness crab sauce and crab that could have come straight from the water and onto my plate. The noodles could have been cooked just a smidge longer, but I ate them so quickly and forcefully that it can’t be too much of a complaint. And just big enough of a portion that you wonder if you’ll finish it (maybe it’s too big), but when you do (and you will), you’ll know that it was a mistake to take the four bites. Now you’re in a lunch coma.
Fettucine con gamberi al limone
I almost ordered this because who doesn’t want long fettucini noodles, prawns, lemon and microgreens. Fortunately my colleague also chose pasta (so I wasn’t shamed by a heavy mid-day pick), and this arrived topped gorgeously with ikura (red caviar) and lemon zest.