First Taste: Spinasse


A great Italian restaurant requires nothing more than an obsessed cook, so great Italian restaurants can pop up anywhere. Think Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.

Spinasse is a casual, bustling Seattle newcomer, and Justin Neidermeyer is its obsessed cook. He got his start at the Beard award–winner Cafe Juanita, near Seattle, then cooked at Antica Torre in Barbaresco, Italy. Along the way, his brain was taken over by pasta. He’s like a character from Bill Buford’s Heat, on a lifelong quest to make the perfect noodle, except that Neidermeyer is no Italian grandmother; he’s a bearded thirtysomething Seattleite who used to sell pasta at the farmers market.

Comparing a young chef to an Italian grandma and his restaurant to the best of the best? Hyperbole, you scoff. As a rebuttal, I offer you a bowl of Neidermeyer’s tajarin al cotello, hand-cut noodles tossed with toasted pinenuts, butter, and sage. There’s nothing to it. If you wanted to knock out a jaded food critic with such a dish, well, those noodles would have to offer perfect resistance to the tooth, the subtle flavor of good flour, and barely enough sauce to coat each strand. You see my point. The same goes for Spinasse’s maltagliati al ragù, little kerchiefs of pasta with real ragù: that is, meat sauce with tomato rather than tomato sauce with meat.

Pasta isn’t the whole story, though. I’d happily (well, reluctantly) pass it up for a big-salad version of the insalata di galinetto, a mix of radicchio and other chicories with marinated chicken, thin slices of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a few drops of aged balsamic. As it was, I had to make do with a bit of the salad as part of the antipasti sampler, which was thoroughly classic and great: vitello tonnato, zucchini blossom frittata, proscuitto with melon.

Would this be one of those Italian meals where the appetizers and pastas are delightful and the main course dull? Nope. Slow-roasted goat with chickpeas and Savoy cabbage was tender and well seasoned, and a squeeze of lemon brought it all together. There was one dessert: half of a small, perfectly ripe local nectarine with honey and Toma cheese.

Spinasse is not perfect. The space was hot and loud, the service well-meaning but amateurish. One server took my friend’s drink order and walked off as I was saying, “And I’ll have...” (A nice Enzo Boglietti Barbera, by the way, from the very reasonable all-Italian wine list.)

About the food, however, I can think of nothing negative to say. Great Italian restaurants can pop up anywhere. One just did.

Spinasse 1531 14th Ave., Seattle, WA (206-251-7673;

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