My SO and I remember when Anthony Bourdain once said something like, "You just want to pay someone to not fuck up your pasta". We loved that, because it's so true. Pasta although an easy thing to cook, isn't always done correctly. Of course, Tom Douglas' new Italian spot didn't disappoint!
As you enter Cuoco, the new Italian eatery in South Lake Union, you see a giant counter where pasta is being made fresh, daily. The Gnocchi is even made to order! All of the pastas are made in house, as are many of the sausages, gotta love that.
Pasta making in action!
The dining area was well lit, but it was still light outside, as the night grew later, the candlelight became more pronounced and gave the atmosphere a warm cozy glow. We were seated towards the back, away from the entrance and host station.
Table Settings at Cuoco
I loved the variegated wood panels along the benches and the gold and maroon floral tablecloths covered with kraft colored butcher paper. The only part that was a little offsetting was looking out the windows along the wall into, well, an ugly office building. The last thing I want to look at after work, is an office building. Perhaps curtains would help this? I don't know.
View of offices... meh.
Some of the menu items are a little difficult to interpret, like Olive Bombolini - a Bombolini is like a doughnut - our server told us that these are savory with tuna and olives - we didn't order them because my SO doesn't eat seafood. We were actually unsure of how or what to order, so we went on instinct. Being that it was opening night, we didn't have any recommendations, and we had no idea what to expect.
Bread & EVOO Flight $6
We started with the Bread and EVOO Flight - Three types of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. The Trampetti was rich, robust and a little spicy at the back of your mouth, this was the richest one, and the darkest colored. Colli Estruchi - This one was mild, almost buttery and light, it was the center one, not as dark as the first. And third, the Ferrante - this was the lightest of the three, both in color and texture. It was actually very delicate, almost flavorless after the Trampetti. Ok, so I enjoyed it, because I love tasting Olive Oils, but $6? seriously? This is really just the Dahlia House Loaf, you can buy it at the bakery or get it served up for free at Palace Kitchen, with a vat of olive oil, balsamic and even olives. I don't know why this isn't complimentary, $6 seems ridiculous... I don't "get it". Oh well, we tried it, it was good, but probably wouldn't bother with this again.
Gnocchi with Pancetta, Hazelnuts and Nettle Pesto $16
Instead of having our own meals, we decided to share a few dishes. We didn't try any of the appetizers, as most were seafood, or things my partner doesn't eat. We decided to dive into the pastas and meats. We chose the Gnocchi with Pancetta, Hazelnuts and Nettle Pesto, we went for the large size, you can also choose the small portion for $12. I am glad we went with the large, because this dish was pretty small. Each and every bite was fabulous! We smelled the garlic as soon as the dish was placed in front of us. The fresh Gnocchi was tossed with crispy chunks of pancetta and roasted garlic. The nettle pesto was wonderful, the green and garlic flavors that lingered just long enough to not be offensive. The house made gnocchi was super soft and chewy and our server said they use a very very small amount of flour in the gnocchi. You can feel the textural difference. These are super light, with just enough bite to them to make you crave more.
Seven Layer Lasagna Alla Ferrara $16
This lasagna was like none that I have tried before. again, the portion size was small, it probably measured 3"x4"x1". This lasagna was light, and crispy. Yes, crispy lasagna. Almost like a meat filled Napoleon. Thin layers of pasta with meat sauce, and sprinkled with parmesan, and it was full of flavor, even without an abundance of marinara sauce. I would definitely come back for both of these fantastic pasta dishes!
Cotechino Sausage with Bob's Red Mill Polenta $18
This dish was ok. I wasn't thrilled with it. Again, small portion. The house made sausage was good, but I didn't love the broth with the polenta. The sausage itself is about as light as sausage can be, and it wasn't overly salted. I don't think I would order this again, it just didn't "shine".
Cuoco's Dessert Menu
Partially because of the small portions, but also because we both have a sweet tooth, we saved room for dessert. Actually, I wasn't really impressed by the dessert selection...
Arborio Rice Pudding $8
My SO had the Arborio Rice Pudding, and it was ok. I don't think I care much for rice pudding. I think of rice as a savory dish accompaniment and it's a little weird for dessert. When I asked my SO what he thought, his words exactly were, "Meh. It wasn't exceptional. It wasn't worth 8 bucks". I agree.
Chocolate Budino $8
Well, I pretty much knew what to expect here, because I've had this exact dessert at Serious Pie. It's the same. It's really good, but I was hoping that Cuoco would have some new dessert selections. Maybe later, it was opening day after all!
Overall the experience was pleasant, our server was super friendly, and seemed to enjoy his job very much. I would love to see some kind of curtain or something blocking the windows to the view of the offices, but that is my only complaint about the surroundings. The food was fantastic, and definitely worth trying, but it does end up being a pricey meal. For two of us, for the dishes above, and no drinks, it came to very close to $100 with tax and tip. Worth it for a splurge, but it's not really a "special occasion" atmosphere. Hopefully they will either beef up the portion sizes or lower the prices a little soon. We will definitely come back again when we're in the mood for the Gnocchi! I am also looking forward to a new brunch spot on the weekends!
South Lake Union
310 Terry Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109
Lunch: Monday - Friday 11:00am – 2:00pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday, 4:00pm – 10:00pm
Sunday 4:00pm – 9:00pm
Brunch: Saturday - Sunday 9:00am to 2:00pm
I also love Tom Douglas's cookbooks for inspiration and recipes for some of the famous dishes are even available in the books! I've provided links to the ones I own below...