What makes a great Italian restaurant? For some it may be the antipasti, while for others it’s the quality of the wines and pastas that’s the sure-fire test. Holding up one dish is dangerous. Octopus? Lasagna? Cacio e pepe? Which one dish should be the barometer of a great Italian restaurant?
The steps we took to compile our most-recent ranking were as thorough and comprehensive as possible: we looked at restaurants that made it to our 101 Best Restaurants in America; we also recruited an illustrious panel of judges that included some of the country’s top food writers, critics, and bloggers to submit their suggestions, which we supplemented with our own choices, including previous years’ rankings as well as lauded newcomers. This list of hundreds of restaurants was then built into a survey that was sent out to more than 100 panelists, who voted for their favorites. The final ranking included a significant number of Italian restaurants, and to create this list we supplemented the Italian restaurants that made it into our final list of 101 with those that came in as runners-up and those that were featured on this year's list of the country's 50 best casual restaurants. Turns out there are many Italian restaurants worthy of renown in America, and one resides in Seattle.
Ethan Stowell’s most acclaimed eatery, Staple & Fancy Merchantile, is in a league all its own. There’s an à la carte menu, but diners are encouraged to pay it no heed and leave their meal in the kitchen’s hands; for $50 per person, they’ll "Do It Fancy," preparing a four-course family-style meal for your table, and they feel so strongly that you should do this, they've said so right there on the menu in the past: "We would also like to inform you that you really should do this." So what can you expect? Perhaps a wood-grilled whole fish with brown butter, capers, lemon, and fried herbs; or perhaps a bowl of bucatini amatriciana with guanciale, tomato, and pecorino Toscano. Whatever you end up with, you’ll leave fully confident that your dinner was worth far more than $50, and glad that you put it in the kitchen’s hands. Stowell’s food is so good, the restaurant scored the #32 spot on our compilation, and since it’s the only one from the city to make the list, according to our panel of experts, Staple & Fancy is the best Italian restaurant in Seattle.