Could Bellini be Seattle’s most “Italian” of Italian restaurants? When you walk into the brick-lined space in the heart of Belltown and hear the chef singing opera, while spinning pizza dough, you are off to a pretty good start. Immediately after, you are hit with a feeling of familiarity and happiness, just like walking into grandma’s kitchen because you are promptly greeted with a smiling face while your soul takes in the warmth and aroma of traditional Italian spices. Even the décor reminds you of sweet grandma – simple tables and chairs with unique artwork on the walls. Although the décor may be simple, the food is definitely worth writing home (or in a blog) about.
Bellini specializes in traditional southern Italian cuisine and New York style pizza. The service is impeccable and the menu is well thought-out, catering nicely to everyone - the tourist, the happy hour frequenter, families and so on. There is something on the menu to satisfy even the most persnickety of diners. They offer a lunch menu complete with traditional New York-style pizza, a happy hour menu (including all-day happy hour on Sunday), and a more elaborate, more substantial dinner menu. They are open every day except for Monday.
Bellini is owned and operated by the Schlackman family. Steve Schlackman grew up in an Italian neighborhood in New York and his wife is from Salerno. Their menus are executed expertly by their chef, who is originally from Naples. Over the past several years Steve tried to find an authentic New York-style pizza in Seattle and after not finding what he missed about his hometown, he decided to give Seattle the New York love it deserved. Just like in New York, Bellini’s traditional New York-style pizzas are simple, cooked in a traditional pizza oven, and insanely delicious. I sampled the margarita pizza (marinara, fresh basil, and mozzarella) and the pesto, artichoke, and onion pizza. My first few bites catapulted me back into New York with its comforting homemade thin, but slightly crisp crust topped with fresh ingredients.
Unlike many restaurants, Bellini makes everything homemade with fresh and local ingredients, including their pastas. I had the pleasure of trying the gnocchi and veal piccata. Since I couldn’t decide on which sauce to choose for the gnocchi, to my delight the server suggested trying both sauces. The gnocchi were light and fluffy and were prepared with a light gorgonzola cream sauce on one side and a marinara sauce with smoked mozzarella on the other. That was my first experience with smoked mozzarella on pasta and it paired amazingly well with the acidity of the marinara. Veal piccata, which is a challenge to find in Seattle, was prepared with perfection. The veal was pounded thin and cooked perfectly tender with enough lemon and caper sauce to tantalize my taste buds.
No Italian meal is complete without a glass of wine. For the wine lovers out there, Bellini offers interesting and unique wines from Italy. Their sommelier grew up in a winery in eastern Washington wine country and is incredibly passionate. She delicately selects only the best Italian wines that compliment items on their menu. Based on my love for medium – full-bodied Italian wines, the sommelier suggested the Terenzi Cesanese del Piglio. This red wine offered bright fruit characters and earthy overtones. The Cesanese is considered to be one of the more interesting grape varieties in Lazio and pairs well with southern Italian cuisine.
After dining at Bellini, it all made sense as to why I felt so comfortable and loved at Bellini. The owners and staff treat everyone like family, welcoming them into their kitchen. When the Italian chef sings and cooks from his heart, he is spreading love in each dish he creates.
Photo credits: Bellini
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