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February 24, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Il Corvo: The most Italian lunch in Seattle?

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Cash-only, lunch-only, and only one bite to say it was worth it. Photos by David Dickey.

I love wandering in and around Pike Place Market on rainy winter weekdays. The market is busy but not overrun, feeling more like a working part of the city and less like it’s meant for tourists. You can walk freely, shop thoughtfully, select fresh ingredients the way you might in some European market… and, for the past few months, you can linger more in that last feeling by slipping in to Il Corvo, on the Hillclimb leading to the market (right by this fine piggy place).

Nancy wrote about how Il Corvo owner Mike Easton left his chef’s spot at nearby Lecosho with a plan to crank out fresh pastas, using antique tools and old-fashioned handcraft to create shapes like fregola di sarda and fusilli and pansotti . It’s a lunch-only, cash-only operation sharing space with Procopio Gelateria.

Stopping by last week, we ordered all of the three pastas on the menu (who could choose? I wasn’t about to give up the cavatelli or the capellini OR the ravioli). The tables around us were filled. One pair doted over a smiling baby, other shoppers admired their purchases as they sipped red wine, one couple made us think of the Lady and the Tramp as they twirled their bites under a chalkboard sign that read “Sei piu bella di un Angelo (you are more beautiful than an angel.)” Relaxed, I started wishing we’d gone for that glass of wine that had first seemed like overkill for lunch. The fresh, simple, high-quality food, the friendly neighbors, the incongruous little space, even the minor inconveniences (no credit cards, limited hours) made me think of some of the casual lunches I’d enjoyed in Italy many years ago.

Then a bunch of school-aged children invaded, standing in a long line at the front counter with just a few chaperones. I was impressed at first to think the group was springing for (and so excited about) a meal where the long strands of cappelini clearly broadcast the flavors of spicy Calabrian pepper and cured tuna heart. Then I realized they were there for the shop’s other specialty, scoops of gelato. Ah, well. That’s Italian too.

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