- rustico, elegante and delizioso: a great addition to downtown Bellevue
During the past decade there has been amazing growth in Bellevue with newly constructed high-rises, an ever increasing population and a slue of new restaurants. A welcomed trend is privately owned restaurants that offer a level of service, quality and atmosphere that is unmatched by the corporate “big-boys” like Maggiano's, P.F. Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory. The newly opened Bellevue Cantinetta is an off-shoot of the popular, quaint Seattle Cantinetta tucked away in a Wallingford neighborhood.
Located at street level on Old Main Street, Cantinetta is a small restaurant (by Bellevue standards) with a warm atmosphere of a Tuscan Trattoria. The dimly lit, high ceiling room has massive windows, Italian country chandeliers, re-claimed wood floors, warm brown tones and hefty rustic wood furniture. Dining options include small, medium and large rectangular tables, an outdoor sidewalk section and a curved rustic bar to enjoy a glass of wine or a complete meal.
The menu is small and precise showcasing fresh house-made pastas, Tuscan inspired antipasti and entrées created with local organic and seasonal ingredients. The young chef is the talented Tomer Shneor who is originally from Haifa, Israel and has spent time in some of New York’s finest restaurants. We had an opportunity to speak with Tomer as he walked us through the menu and highlighted the details of various preparations and the quality local ingredients. The chef is excited about sourcing fresh, local produce from the Bellevue Farmers Market.
The menu is organized in traditional Tuscan fashion with Antipasti, Contorni, Primi, Secondi and Dolci. Kate and I decided to order something from each section and share our picks. We brought a bottle of Giuseppe Campagnola Le Bine Valpolicella Classico Superiore, 2006 which we new would be a great compliment to our meal. We started with the antipasti of Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, mizuna. The presentation was simple and elegant with chunks of fresh orange and red tomato, a cut ball of creamy white Burrata cheese and a mound of well-dressed delicate greens. Our primo plati was fresh Tagliatelle with summer corn, house made pancetta and fresh Shitake. The perfectly cooked pasta was delicate and delicious and the sweet summer corn was deftly balanced by the smoky/salty pancetta and the earthy shitake mushrooms. Our secondi was fresh Halibut with caramelized Zucchini. The super-fresh Halibut was cooked very well with a crispy pan-seared crust and a moist flaky interior. The fish was plated over a puréed sweet yellow pepper sauce with caramelized yellow and green squash. For the contorni ( side dish) we ordered the Eggplant. The eggplant was fantastic and quite memorable with a preparation that includes marinating for at least 24 hours, then slow cooking with olive oil and tomato creating intensely flavorful morsels…yum. For dessert (dolci) we had the warm Chocolate Budino. This was a perfect dessert to savor as we finished off our lovely Valpolicella. The Budino (Italian for pudding) was rich, voluptuous, creamy chocolate heaven made with olive oil and perked up with a delightful sprinkling of sea salt. Kate told Chef Shneor that she would love to have the recipe!
Overall, Cantinetta is a great addition to the Bellevue dining scene. The restaurant is warm and inviting, the service is attentive and professional and the food is simple, elegant and delicious. We look forward to trying every item on the delightful, inspired menu. We will definitely return in the near future; this could be the start of a long and satisfying relationship. Cantinetta is located at 10038 Main Street in Bellevue, Washington.