Few and far between is the restaurant where one can dine on beef tartare, linguine nero and paccheri all the while listening to Prince’s 1984 hit album “Purple Rain.” It’s a wonderful paradox; matching the mastercraft of an album with food just as excellent where, on a recent visit, I nibbled on a combination of prawns, sofrito and gremolata set to the sounds of “When Doves Cry.”
Ethan Stowell Restaurant’s (ESR) latest eatery, Cortina, is that paradox. Cortina combines an air of comfortability with that of exquisiteness and familiar ideas with contemporary concepts. The restaurant serves accessible Italian fare, craft cocktails and local libations at the base of Seattle’s Two Union Square.
The interior is sleek and the dining room large with 220 seats, the Stowell’s biggest restaurant to date. It makes sense, due to its location, Cortina caters to the immense business crowd that occupy its tables for lunch. But this doesn’t exclude Cortina for other individuals. With plenty of space and an intriguing menu, Cortina opens up for a wide variety of folks.
As “I Would Die 4 You” croons through the restaurant’s speakers, I created my own personal setlist for the night.
1. The Drinks.
Cortina boasts an extensive cocktail program. To start off, I ordered the Italiano. It feels appropriate, as it is the best way to honor the food items I’m about to order. Campari, Aperol, sweet vermouth and soda — the perfect aperitif.
2. Small Plates.
Small plate heaven. Isn’t that the name of the restaurant? Maybe it should be. Cortina offers a diverse and eclectic section of small plates, each serving up its own unique taste. My favorites were the yellow gazpacho, beef tartare and sun gold tomato.
Dungeness crab, cucumber, avocado and chili are smothered with the bright yellow gazpacho; formed from yellow peppers, yellow heirloom tomatoes and baguette as a thickening agent. Next up, beef tartare with an oyster vinaigrette, horseradish and parsley to pair nicely and give a fresh twist on this classic dish. The sun gold tomato was easily my favorite small plate of the night. Peach, basil, ricotta salata and aged balsamic make for a fantastic combination.
Track 3: time for noodles. Reminiscent of ESR’s Rione XIII and the late Anchovies and Olives restaurants, Cortina’s menu plays host to a generous amount of pasta dishes. The linguine nero sees spicy lobster, nduja, garlic, chili and pangrattato join forces.
Is it Italian fare without a good cannoli? Served in generous portions, Cortina’s cannolis are stuffed with orange ricotta cheese filling and pistachio. If you aren’t feeling the cannoli, you can’t go wrong with the malted chocolate budino, where white chocolate pearls and whip cream bring you to where you need to be.
Cortina’s location, ambiance and menu all add to its appeal. It’s a place you can go for a business lunch, take your mom to dinner and could bring kids. Cortina makes fine food accessible, allowing everybody to experience its goodness.