After a long week at work, we were ready for a Friday night out. Our destination was the week-old Italian restaurant Branzino, the newest addition to the Second Ave restaurant row in Belltown. I called that afternoon for a reservation, and we scored a table with a view of the open kitchen – we always prefer that to a view of the street!
The atmosphere and clientele are as you might expect of a new restaurant in Belltown – a bustling, small space filled with young, hip diners. The menu is typically Italian – antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni – and our server explained that dishes are meant to be shared, served one or two at a time. After some difficulty figuring out how much to order (our server kept saying “everything here is served à la carte” but not answering our question of how many dishes would be appropriate for two people), we settled on panzanella (bread salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil), gnocchi with lobster and spring peas, maltagliati (flat pasta) with morels and rabbit, a veal chop with fresh cherries and mushrooms, and a bottle of Barbera d’Asti to go with it all. When we ordered the veal chop, our waitress mentioned that the price had gone up $5 (to $36) since the menu was printed. We looked at each other, considering switching to a more reasonably priced fish or octopus secondo, but we stuck with it since the cherries and mushrooms sounded so good. (Dawn often orders dishes just for the sides!)
The panzanella started off nicely, until I hit a pocket of salt on one of the pieces of mozzarella. I’m a big fan of salt, but this was far too much, and basically ruined the dish for me. It must have been an isolated spot because Dawn enjoyed the rest. Next came the pastas; good, but (ironically) they both could have used more salt, given their somewhat bland flavor. The veal chop was also a surprise – after several bites we realized there were no mushrooms or cherries. We asked our waitress if there was a mix-up, and it was then that she realized that we had been given an old menu when we sat down; the veal chop had changed to being simply served with lemon zest and chopped parsley on top. Since we’d already started, we decided to keep it, but explained that we had ordered the dish for its original description. Our waitress made up for the error by offering us a complementary grapefruit sorbetto with strawberries for dessert, which turned out to be excellent and was Dawn’s favorite dish of the night.
Would we go back? If we found ourselves in Belltown looking around for a bite, then perhaps. The wine selection was quite nice with some reasonably priced bottles, and the staff was very friendly the whole evening, even when things got hectic. Let’s hope the inconsistencies in the dishes were simply part of being a new restaurant.
2429 2nd Ave, Seattle