Saturday, September 8, 2012

Date Night at Rione XIII

Me and my gnocchi alla romana
Two weeks ago I heard that Ethan Stowell had opened up a new restaurant in Capitol Hill called Rione XII (401 15th Avenue E, Seattle 98122 or ethanstowellrestaurants.com/rionexiii/ ).  The review I read said that this restaurant was inspired by Trastevere, the 13th district in Rome, and had a more more Italian heavy menu than Stowell's other restaurants.  Matt and I hadn't been to a new restaurant in a while, so I decided to see if I could get a reservation. When I went to opentable.com I saw that there were ZERO tables open for almost a week, but there was a 7:45 pm reservation for 2 the following Friday. I booked it and we excitedly waited for a our date night the whole next week.
 
We drove out to Capitol Hill after work on Friday and drove around for no less than half an hour looking for street parking.  I love Capitol Hill but I hate the parking situation up there. You literally have to plan for an extra half hour to PARK . . . but I digress.  Anyway,  after we found a space in a nearby residential area we walked up to 15th Avenue and looked around for the restaurant.  We were a bit confused because Rione XIII was so new that it didn't even have a sign up yet. We pushed open the door, looked around timidly and decided we were probably in the right place.
 
The decor was warm and simple, lots of wood, modern hanging lamps and candles.  The hostess welcomed us and even though we were a few minutes early for our reservation, we were seated right away. We sat for a few minutes and our waitress came over with menus and helped us pick out a bottle of wine. 
 
I know a bit (not a ton, mind you) about American wine but pretty much nothing about French (chablis is chardonnay, right??) or Italian wine.  So we told her that we were looking for a nice malbec or chianti type red wine to go with the food.  She recommended what she described as a big red with a lot of 'jammy' notes.  Ok, sounds pretty good to me. She brought us a bottle of Plaza Della Torre 2008 Veronese ($42 for the bottle). The wine opened up pretty nicely, and there were fruit notes, but it was definitely a food wine. Not something you would open up and drink by itself to watch TV, but it served the purpose we needed it to.
 
Now it was time to order our meal, but it took the waitress forever to come back to our table. Lucky we had the wine to keep us company.  When she finally sauntered over we ordered a single serving of the antipasti (cheese, meat, olives, roasted veggies and some strange beet concoction), Matt ordered the bucatini amatricana, and I ordered the gnocchi alla romana.
 
We had already finished half the bottle of wine when our appetizer finally arrived.  I liked everything on it, except the beet thing (which Matt liked). Unfortunately, the menu boasted that the antipasti came with fried artichoke, which I was really looking forward to . . . when it came the artichoke was no where to be found.  I asked the waitress about it and she told me that they had replaced the fried artichoke with the beets tonight. Super.  Not a great start.
 
Then our entrees came and Matt's was a giant bowl of traditional, delicious looking bucatini and mine was a tiny plate with 6 round, french fry looking things. I guess this is the roman style of gnocchi, and I should have known better, but I was expecting little potato pillows in sauce and I got potato cylanders covered in sage and romano cheese.  Don't get me wrong, they were quite tasty, especially the crispy cheesy bits on the bottom of the plate.  I tasted Matt's and it was hearty, flavorful and a little spicy. I had serious entree envy happening.
 
Oh well, I decided that in general Matt is a better orderer at Stowell restaurants. Something very similar happened when we went to How to Cook a Wolf last year. So, the next time we go to a Stowell restaurant I am letting him order for me, because apparently I can't be trusted to order anything decent myself.  We'll see if that works out any better.
 
I ate most of my gnocchi (if you can really call it that) and was still a little hungry and thinking about that fried artichoke that I had missed out on earlier.  I decided to order a whole fried artichoke to go with my dinner, and I am so glad that I did. It was crispy, but didn't have a bunch of heavy breading.  The aoili that came with it was citrusy and delicious too. Matt even liked it and he is not the biggest artichoke fan.
 
We had finished our entrees and artichoke and still had a few swigs of wine left. So we decided to share a small bowl of chocolate gelato.  It was lovely (especially for $4) and was a nice way to wrap up the meal.
 
When our bill came, it was the best surprise of the evening.  Our grand total was only $110.  A very reasonable price for an appetizer, a bottle of wine, two entrees, a side and dessert.  For that reason alone we will go back, but this time wiser about the menu and the best things to order for a good price.  Overall a very good date night. Although, as soon as we got home we passed out because we were so full . . . but that is the hallmark of a good Italian meal if you ask me.
 

Fried Artichoke
bucatini amatricana

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