This Sunday-Monday dinner deal can't be beat, and you'll feel like you're in a small cafe in Italy while you're at it.
The wait at Artusi on Sundays and Mondays can be taxing; the line stretches outside sometimes. You would think that on such slow business nights, when people have their choice of any table in any restaurant in the city, they would just move along.
But no one ever gives up a place in line at Artusi.
This amaro bar runs hands down the best dining deal in town, dinner for two for $35, your choice of two pasta dishes and a bottle of wine.
The pasta is handmade next door at its sibling restaurant Spinasse on Capitol Hill, one of Seattle’s best high-end Italian restaurants. (Pasta entrees usually go for $26-$29 at Spinasse).
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In a city littered with bistros and bars, chefs run all-day happy hour or Sunday dinner specials on off nights. But Artusi’s dinner special has gained traction like no other such deal around. The spot looks just as packed on Sundays and Mondays as on Fridays and Saturdays. I’ve seen more chefs and bartenders eat here than anywhere else on those days.
What started as just a hush-hush deal known to service-industry workers and Capitol Hill dwellers has morphed into a dinner event. All across the city, patrons plan their weekend schedule around it.
Artusi now stations two cooks instead of one in the kitchen and put an additional worker on the floor to keep up with the orders. They’re trying to figure out how to redo the electrical wiring to add maybe two more burners.
Drink: The dinner for two includes your choice of bottle (rosé, sparkling, red or white). The Italian wine list rotates every two weeks, and the selection has varied so widely it’s pointless to single out any standouts. But all the table wines that we sampled in this deal were excellent, bottles that usually would sell in the $24-$30 range at other Italian cafes.
Food: Choose any two out of the four pasta plates, which always includes at least one vegetarian entree. The seasonal list rotates every two to three weeks. One menu standby — and its best — is its Northern Italian Maltagliati pasta with braised rabbit meat and carrots, herbaceous and brimming with a rich white-wine-and-butter sauce. You will want to mop up every last creamy drop.
If you’re lucky, you might hit a night when the pica is offered. That brawny, hand-rolled noodle, spaghetti on steroids, is al dente chewy, each long pasta laced with the deep umami flavor of ground calamari ragu.
The setting: Even on busy nights with all 55 seats filled, Artusi still feels relaxed, not frantic, a sign of a seasoned staff. It feels like a corner bar where so much of Italian life used to be lived. There are $6 Aperol spritzes and Campari sodas during apertivo (happy hour is offered weekdays from 5-7 p.m. and again Friday night 10 p.m. to closing). The only thing missing is a television tuned to AC Milan and the hiss and cough of a hardworking espresso machine.
Artusi, 1535 14th Ave., (Capitol Hill) Seattle; the $35 dinner deal runs on Sunday and Monday from 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; (if you want to avoid the line, the best time to go is before 6 p.m. or after 9 p.m., especially if your party is four or more.); 206-251-7673, artusibar.com