A Little Italian Secret

A Little Italian Secret

* This restaurant has, sadly, closed.  It’s still a good read…

ENZA Cucina Siciliana: Update (5/6/12) NOW CLOSED.  

It’s pretty rare, especially in Seattle, for a good restaurant to fly under the radar.  From Bloggers (present company included) to magazine and newspaper food writers, when restaurants are good, people know about it.  This is kind of the case with ENZA Cucina Siciliana, kind of.  Located on the top of Queen Anne, it used to be a Hallmark-style store when I was little.  I remember saving my money to buy little Troll dolls (they were cool…) and spending hours perusing the scented candles.  Then, the Hallmark store moved out and Cucina Cucina, the pasta restaurant chain, moved on in.  Once again I was in that familiar space, but this time for my sixth grade soccer banquet.  That year, the only year, I won “Most Improved” which is really an insult, if you ask me.  I was terrible at the beginning of the season right up to the end, once head butting the ball, on purpose I might add, but everyone just though I got hit in the face.  Moving right along…

Next, a series of Italian restaurants went in and went out… “You’re not painting a very sweet picture…” you might be thinking, and this is true.  According to Anthony Bourdain, a restaurant is destined to fail after moving into a used and abused space, stinking of desperation and disappointment.  Turnover of restaurant real estate can be suicide.  But instead of another sad/weird/questionable/unnamed restaurant, I present ENZA.  It’s really quite sweet and reminds me of ACTUALLY being in Italy.  The waiters are so friendly that before you leave, you’ve become part of the family (the Enza famiglia to be exact).  Mamma Enza isn’t some decrepit memory, stuck back in the kitchen, she’s on the floor baby and workin’ the crowd.  Usually having her dinner and wine along with everyone else, sometimes she serves, sometimes she’s socializing with i bambini and sometimes she’s just hanging out.  Mamma Enza is the original chef at La Vita e Bella, and one of only two Seattle restaurants owned and operated by a first generation Italian woman.

The Food: in a word? Lovely.  It’s authentic Italian food that you might find off the beaten path in Italy, surrounded by Sicilian families and friends.  This isn’t a blow in and grab some food type of place, it’s about the meal.  Take your time, sit, drink wine, order something else (homemade pastas, seafood, grilled seasonal vegetables); it’s all made like they do in Italy, fresh and to-order.  The menu is simple, the preparation is unpretentious and the outcome yields wonderful food from Sicily.

The menu is sometimes followed loosely, so if you’re funny about what you’re going to get, ask what is in a dish.  They don’t give you a huge mound of bread or cream in everything, but that’s how they do it in Italy.  The cream dishes are usually for tourists (i.e. Americans).  I went to Enza with my friend Robyn, who is allergic to dairy.  We each ordered a glass of wine (both were very tasty), and some appetizers – the caponata and piatto di antipasti.  Yum.  Another favorite of mine is the prosciutto e melon (although melon isn’t in season, theirs is so flavorful and bright, you’ll forget all about the cold winter months).  Still a little hungry, we asked Mamma Enza what else we should get that didn’t have dairy.  “Ahh, you get taglionili alla wodka. No crema.”  And it was so delicious, my mouth waters just thinking of those thick pasta noodles and light tomato sauce.  So simple and flavorful, we both paused and said, “This is just like Italy.”

Enza Cucina Siciliana, 2128 Queen Anne Avenue N.  Seattle, WA 98109; (206) 694 0055