Breaking in the Season {Rione XIII}


I can’t remember our last Thursday night dinner. That isn’t to say there haven’t been any, but they’ve been pretty few and far between since late spring. We’ve been eating at home a lot more. It was a really beautiful summer and we finally started making use of our long neglected amenities. We grilled. A lot. We frequented our favorite neighborhood restaurants in lieu of new places and didn’t really venture outside our usual haunts.It was nice. We took a break. We threw a party. We enjoyed each others’ company and the company of good friends. It seemed like overnight, it was all over.

The rain came and we were reminded of how rough the adjustment is every year. Growing up in New Mexico, the seasons changing, the end of summer, was welcomed. The whole city smelled like roasting green chile, there were breakfast burritos and hot chocolate to look forward to at the Balloon Fiesta. The memory of the summer’s oppressive heat was starting to fade, but the sun was still shining. In Seattle, though, there’s no gentle transition. There are no broad, cultural, uniquely Seattle fall traditions to look forward to. Well, maybe there are, but I don’t think I’ve lived here long enough to anticipate the arrival of Salmon Days. It just isn’t the same. Fall is the one time a year when I am guaranteed to be homesick. In Seattle, it pretty much goes from this…


to this..


…overnight. There are occasional sunny days, but they’re few and tend to be colder than the cloudy days. We’ll adjust, of course, get used to our rain gear again, go back to living our lives, but it takes awhile. For now, our usual 5:15AM gym wakeup call is too much to take in the stark darkness more mornings than not. The thought of venturing out to run the smallest errand is extraordinarily painful. Energy levels all around tank and the desire to hibernate becomes almost overwhelming. It happens every year, but that doesn’t make the transition any smoother.

That’s all a very long way of saying that getting back to our dinner schedule wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Last night, we ventured out to Ethan Stowell’s Rione XIII in Capitol Hill. Inspired by the 13th district of Rome, Trastevere, Rione XIII’s menu is Italian food in its most blissfully basic form.

We had a reservation, but as there were bar seats available, they graciously let us forego our table for those. That’s generally a strategy that works well for us and this was no exception. We started with their Antipasti (Castelvetrano olives, Marinated Little Mozzarella, Prosciutto di Parma, housemade Porchetta, and onion Agrodolce). You order it by the person, but we only ordered for one. That turned out to be a wise decision. It didn’t last long enough to take a photo (and frankly, I’m out of practice), but it was delicious. I’m currently obsessed with Castelvetrano olives. I can’t get enough of them, and there were only four on the plate, so it’s a good thing olives aren’t B’s thing.

There are so many different ways to approach their menu. It’s structured by mozzarellas, Roman pizzas, small plates, pastas, and large plates. We decided to share a pizza and a pasta. The bartender was awesome and waited to put in our pasta until after we’d had the pizza. We chose the mortadella, mozzarella, arugula pizza. I read a few online reviews complaining that this isn’t true Roman pizza. I can’t speak to that. I’d never even heard of it until yesterday. I can speak to how delicious it was, though. No sauce, the meat went on first, then the cheese, and finally the arugula. That arrangement worked well since it was easy enough for Ben to take the arugula off his slices. My half-finished drink in the photo was a spritz, by the way.


The pasta was as we’ve come to expect from Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. Sadly, it’s not on the online version of their menu, but there was sausage and mint, which lent an unexpected, wonderful flavor. I didn’t think there was any way we would finish all the food. We didn’t, but only left 3 small slices of pizza. The pasta didn’t stand a chance.


Of course, there was room for dessert, though. There always is. There were a couple great options, but in the end, we stuck with our simplicity theme and opted for the tiramisu. Perspective is everything, I guess. That’s my only explanation for why it looks so tiny in this photo. It was a perfectly generous, normal sized dessert. We each ordered a glass of port to go with it. Our very wise bartender suggested two different types that we could share.  WP_20131003_18_24_33_Pro

It wasn’t a terribly long meal, but it was a really enjoyable one. It takes exactly these types of mellow, pleasant, cozy experiences to start to remember why we started the restaurant adventures in the first place. The dark, gloomy, Seattle fall, winter, and let’s face it, spring, months really aren’t so bad once you find your way around them.


Rione XIII on Urbanspoon


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