Lacking sufficient motivation to cook and lacking sufficient inspiration on where to eat a simple, inexpensive dinner, I somehow found myself conspiring with Jennifer to come up with something entertaining for the evening, already well into the dinner hour.
Suddenly I had the idea to find something in Columbia City, a frequently neglected possibility for dining in Seattle. I noticed a little Ethiopian place that sounded inexpensive and tasty, and made my way southward, picking up my friend along the way.
We arrived slightly circuitously, but something caught my eye which had previously sounded less exciting in the particular set of restaurant summaries I had been perusing. It was La Medusa, a cute little Italian restaurant with an appealing menu. I mentioned something about how much I had been enjoying making roasted cauliflower at home recently, and we made our way across the street to sneak a peek at the Ethiopian place. It looked like a good Tuesday night place, but was a little noisy due to their Friday night musicial guest and wasn’t exactly what either Jennifer or I needed, so we trusted our impulse and returned to La Medusa.
We wandered around for a few minutes while waiting for a table to open up, but we settled on some chickpea fritters, roasted cauliflower with pine nuts, and some grilled asparagus with a fried egg and some hint of truffle salt. I ordered a glass of a Sangiovese and Jennifer got some Pinot Grigio. Somehow, in spite of eating too much pizza recently, I was still drawn to a fig, fennel and ricotta pizza. We skipped any other mains or pastas since it was already late and no longer particularly needed, but found ourselves more than satiated… still, we felt the need to indulge in a little chocolate espresso torte.
Everything was spot-on. Simple preparations, good ingredients, humble but reverential staff, and very attentive service made the whole experience very pleasant. The interior is spare yet attractive. Prices were commensurate with the quality of ingredients, but still a little less extravagant than less impressive options downtown or Capitol Hill. This is exactly the kind of Italian dining Seattle needs.
I have frequently ranted to anyone who will listen that Seattle attempts at Italian restaurants tend to miss the mark: oversized portions of boring pasta that make it hard to order a taste of anything else on the menu, spectacular prices, overly complex dishes that obscure rather than highlight the ingredients used… It’s refreshing to see that there are other alternatives to this approach.
La Medusa is no budget dining experience… I think the total bill, before tip, was about $55 for two, about $15 of which was from wine. I had originally been seeking out something more modest, thus the inclination to come for the inexpensive Ethiopian place. But it is a beautiful little space, and does an excellent job bringing out the best in simple things. The lower rents in the area probably contributed to a roughly 10–20% lower cost than an equivalent meal, if such a thing were available, in Queen Anne, downtown, or Fremont.
The space is actually fairly friendly to the young families that seem to be populating Columbia City, and we saw several (non-disruptive) children around the dining room. It’s an excellent little neighborhood place, but it’s definitely a place with enough appeal to draw me out of my Woodland Park/Fremont environs.