I was brought to Perche’ No? for a pair of occasions and the last one did it in for me to write home about. Perche’ No? is an Italian restaurant that has been in operation for over 15 years by an Asian-American family with a deep rooted fascination, appreciation and adoration for Italy, her food and culture.
Let me preface this post with the understanding that I intentionally avoid Italian restaurants in Seattle. Hopefully, by now my readers know that I have spent substantial time eating and living (2 of the same) in Italy. I love Italy so much that its almost a slap in her face to try to recreate her gastronomic magic in America. I’d rather go the local route. Ironically enough, the phrase “when in Rome…” comes to mind in times of indulgent endeavors. And I try to check out places in Seattle that are what some would consider “experimental”, “fringe” and seasonal. And for example, it would be hard to recreate a Sardo Zuppa di Fregola that Arianna made back in the winter prior to my last departure with thoughtful compliments like Pani Guttiau that can only be found best in Sardegnia. I have these precious food memories that, to me, would serve almost as a betrayal if I tried to relive them through some makeshift Italian restaurant on American soil. Some may not understand, but I truly am a romantic at heart and severely loyal to principal.
In any case, I found myself here, after several months of intentionally avoiding Italian restaurants in Seattle. And don’t you dare say Ethan Stowell counts. He’s not Italian food. Period. Anyways, I found myself here 1st for a “Yelp” groupon like special deal and this second time organizing a Seattle-Italian meetup group dinner. I could have chosen a different place, as there are a pair of Italian joints that I secretly harbor butterflies for, but I chose Perche’ No?
Why? Well when I 1st visited on the “Yelp” deal meal, I immediately felt like this was home. There was a piano player (okay, a little cheesy but classy) but there were also pictures of the owner and their family, reviews framed from over 10years+ and warm conversation from the owner, as a reminder of Italian sociability I have grown so fond of as to long deeply for now being away for almost 2 years. And even though, this tower of a castle restaurant was dressed with fancy drapes and lamps it still had those vinyl table cloths, which most restaurants in Italy have. Regardless of its classy score.
So I felt reminded. That aside, let me talk a bit about the food.
This was Ravioli Neri con Salmone Affumicato. Basically Ravioli made “pasta nera” style (which is pasta made with squid ink, a southern delicacy that I absolutely love) and stuffed with thick belly fillet mounds of smoked salmon and dressed in a Lemon Dill cream sauce toned with garlic and topped with parsley. Now, I know what you might be thinking. Smoked salmon. Pasta Nera. Ravioli Neri. Those things together aren’t quite traditionally Italian. Commonly, Pasta Nera is found as angel hair pasta and is served with shellfish, frutti del mare, or maybe calamari. This would more than likely irritate Italian gastronomes. As who, from my observation, are sticklers to tradition and mixing of confident flavors with “Alaskan Turkey”, aka smoked salmon, is just asking for a wag of the finger.
But I decided to try it anyways. It sounded interesting, and i’d never had Ravioli Neri. And I probably never would. It was…convincing. The sauce was well done. It was nicely lemony, kicky garlicky and semi-dilly. All blanketed in a silhouette of cream. Not heavy, not. at. all. The salmon was surprising. It was the thick filet type of smoked salmon, not the raw sliver lox style. It was unusually subtle. It was like this weird tug of war on my taste buds that everyone seemed to win. The pasta was very fresh, as all pastas found at Perche’ No? (which Ethan Stowell lacks!!! He outsources his “fresh” pasta!) And was perfectly cooked. And if at any moment, the salmon wanted to take the spotlight, the lemon sauce quickly charged in as to cool its flames. And every bite was daintily finished with a creamy sweet garlic touch.
Don’t fret, I didn’t forget dessert.
Which was chocolate fluffy tasty crepes filled with a rich hazelnutty Gianduja creme and topped with a vanilla eggy zabaglione custard. I had this with a dessert liqueur, Nocello, which is hazelnut-walnut flavored and caramel in color. The liqueur was a bit much, especially in addition to the super decadent chocolate hazelnut custard crepe masterpiece. But on its own, it would been just dessert.
Once in Rome, I asked a open-air vendor about why people would come to his stand to buy packaged frozen food when they could save money and go across the street to EuroSurgelati (basically a Grocery Outlet of all things frozen). He responded to me by saying that people will always (hopefully) prefer the human factor in their consumption practices. And I thought, even though Perche’ No? may not have a regionalized seasonal menu’ and may have dishes that aren’t completely traditional to Italian cuisine, but they definitely have that human factor that I definitely prefer, where a place like Staple and Fancy lacks. The human factor that brings the owner to meet and hold a conversation with nearly every patron, and has done so since 2002. And that you can tell that every menu item was strategically designed and thoughtfully made from scratch, with those memories of Italy always somewhere hiding in the back of their mind and obviously expressed through fresh squeezed pasta. And that is something worth tasting.