Tuesday, October 28, 2008


1531 14th Ave

What's the most rustic thing in the world? Is it a rocking chair made of rough- hewn pine logs? A leather wine flagon? A scarecrow? A cabin in a Bob Ross painting? An overturned, antique wheelbarrow in a front yard with flowers growing in it? Bread made by orphans? Anything that comes from Tuscany? Sarah Palin?

Answer: Spinasse is, in fact, the single most rustic item in the world. It's somehow even more rustic than the screenplay I wrote about the quest for the world's most rustic sandwich. It's so fucking rustic.

Spinasse takes reservations, but when I called they were booked, so I dutifully waited in line outside for a seat at the bar. I'd actually recommend NOT getting reservations so you CAN sit at the bar. A bearded, vested gentleman (who I presume is the owner) was methodically making the restaurant's fresh pasta for the night, right there on the bar in front of us. He was kind enough to answer questions while he shaped the pasta with different decorative rollers and cutters. I had tons of questions about his pasta tools. There are tons of rustic pasta tools on the walls inside Spinasse, and unlike at Bucca di Beppo, they aren't just for “kitsch”: those crazy pasta savants use every one. Even the one that looks like a homonculus. Even the one that looks like a speculum.

While we chatted with the owner, the waitress brought out 2 kinds of crostini. One was spread with ricotta and topped with a cherry pepper which had been stuffed with anchovy paste and a caper. The ricotta was light and fluffy, and the stuffed pepper was tangy and spicy. The other crostini was spread with a rabbit liver and porcini pate with a drip of thick balsamic vinegar. The pate was rich and smooth. The balsamic tasted like grape jelly. A fucking fine amuse bouche, and it was FREE.

Spinasse has a fantastic prix fixe menu with lots of options: we chose the “Menu Principale,” which allows you to choose 2 appetizers, 1 pasta, and 1 entree for $47 (per person). The first appetizer (known as “antipasti” in the rustic Italian tongue) was anchovy fillets in Piemontese sauce. The sauce was green and tasted like pesto, and was dotted with bits of crumbled boiled egg yolk. The anchovies were the Platonic ideal of anchovies: salty, fishy, and everything else an anchovy is supposed to be.

The second appetizer was a fennel and beet salad. This was a pretty standard beet salad, with chunks of roasted chioggia beets, slivers of fennel, and chopped fennel frond. The beets were creamy but the whole thing was cloyingly sweet. It could have used a vinaigrette or something to balance the flavor.

The pasta dish was an enormous platter of maltagliatti, which is literally “badly cut.” These are basically random shapes. How very rustic! Everyone knows that rustic things are usually random, like a giant roadside ball of twine, or a Stonehenge made of tits. The random pasta had razor thin slivers of porcini mushrooms, olive oil, black pepper, and maybe a few shreds of romano or reggiano cheese. It was also without a doubt the BEST PASTA I HAVE EVER EATEN. I'd almost go so far as to say it's the best thing I've ever put in my mouth (at least until I figure out how to suck my own dick). It was a huge platter, and I didn't think we could eat it all, but no: that maltagliatti was astonishingly light. The pasta didn't even taste like it was made of flour: it was as if they somehow condensed sunlight into random edible shapes. It was so thin the individual pasta pieces were translucent. A huge plate of pasta went down like your mom, and if it was the goal of Spinasse's vested owner to create a pasta to make the ghosts of all the Caesars themselves weep with envy for the living, then mission accomplished.

In case you didn't understand the main idea of all the aforementioned hyperbole, the maltagliatti was a tough act to follow. But the crafty insane artisans at Spinasse obviously know this so they played it conservatively with the secondi: a simple, roasted rabbit. The rabbit was tender, juicy, and farm raised, and was smothered with a menagerie of roasted red and yellow sweet bell peppers. No, it wasn't as good as the maltagliatti. But does it have to be? Does anything?

Dessert was a roasted Bosc pear with whipped cream and honey. The pear was soft, sweet, and spiced. The cream was creamy (I suppose). The honey had a complex flavor, with all kinds of notes, but I was still too distracted thinking about the pasta to concentrate on the flavor of the honey, so I suppose I'll have to go back. But if I go back, then I'll again be too flabbergasted by the maltagliatti to pay attention to the honey, again. What a terrible problem to have.

Usually when people say that something is “rustic,” they mean “crappy.” But Spinasse clearly bucks this trend. Those motherfuckers are mad, driven, and intense about pasta: they're the Colonel Kurtz of conchiglietti, the Beethoven of bucatini, or the something else of something else that begins with the same letter. So you can stick that up your rustic ass. And by calling your ass “rustic” this time I really DO mean “crappy.”

Rating: 9 rustic farmhouses inhabited by anti- government kooks out of 10

Cascina Spinasse on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Zayda Buddy's Pizza

5405 Leary Ave NW

What. The. Fuck. That's not a question. It's a command. It's a command to the owner of Zayda Buddy's Pizza to explain that fucked up name. Zayda Buddy's. Zayda. Buddy's. Zayda Buddy's. That's really the name of the place. Zayda Buddy's Pizza. What does it mean? Is Zayda Buddy a guy's name? Or is the guy's name ONLY Zayda, and the place is owned by his buddy? Or would that actually be “Zayda'S Buddy's Pizza?” I hate it the way I hate Ruth's Chris Steak House, because it's grammatically imprecise, and it makes NO GODDAMN SENSE. Actually, it probably makes perfect sense to Sarah Palin. You should not have to do sentence diagrams on a restaurant's name. Just call it something like “Cafe Maximillian Robespierre,” or “Restaurant Iron Maiden” (I wish) and be done with it already. Comprehending the name “Zayda Buddy's Pizza” is like trying to honestly comprehend your own death: it just doesn't compute. We were programmed by evolution to not understand nonexistence; our brains are similarly hardwired not to understand dumb pizzeria names.

The only thing that's more nonsensical than Zayda Buddy's name is its menu: they claim to serve “Minnesota style pizza.” Allow me to reiterate: What. The. Fuck. Personally, I didn't know Minnesota style pizza even existed! That's pretty random. But not as random as the robot I invented which points out fall foliage: the robot rolls down the street, and whenever it detects the orange and red wavelengths of light emanating from tree leaves, klaxons sound, a warning light blinks, and the robot squawks “FALL FOLIAGE ALERT! FALL FOLIAGE ALERT!” in its retarded Stephen Hawking voice. And if you actually think that the FoliageBot 5000 is a good idea, too bad: patent pending, bitches.

The best part about mocking Minnesota style pizza? No one will complain. That's because the people of Minnesota are famously nice. This seems maladaptive to me from an evolutionary standpoint, considering that only the bastards survive, and retards are usually docile. If you ever meet someone with Down's Syndrome, you'll find them to be SUPER NICE. In fact, Down's Syndrome patients are just as nice as Minnesotans, only Down's Syndrome sufferers eat their boogers more. If I was Bill Gates, I would undertake a philanthropic venture to toughen up the citizens of Minnesota: take all of the people of the meanest state, which I would presume is New York, and take all the Minnesotans, and make them meet somewhere in the middle, like Indiana. Then make them fuck, and hopefully the meanness and niceness will cancel out and the resulting offspring would all be children of even temper. Then you could repopulate Minnesota with normal people. You may ask yourself “Why would Bill Gates spend money on such a bizarre, unfeasible, and unethical plan?” Answer: because he can. After all, if you've got the wealth and power of a Roman emperor, like Bill Gates has, shouldn't you act like one? At least Bill Gates would PAY those Minnesota assholes to do this. Caligula would have simply forced them at the point of a sword.

I guess I'm done making fun of Minnesota, so perhaps I should get to the point of this review, which is Zayda Buddy's. They don't take reservations, which is fine, because it isn't that kind of place. It's more of a bar than a restaurant anyway. Cans of shitty beer cost $3, which in my mind is too expensive. I haven't paid that much money for a CAN of beer since I bought one just so I could piss in a strip club in the French Quarter in 1996. Yeah, yeah, I know, inflation has raised prices, but still.

We started with Mipo's Sweet Potato Salad ($5.95). Like the name of the restaurant, the sweet potato salad could have used some well placed punctuation. I thought it would be a salad of sweet potatoes, which seemed like a great idea. However, they weren't the soft, earthy, bright orange tubers we all know as sweet potatoes. Rather, they were regular potatoes that had been SWEETENED somehow. The dressing was curried mayonnaise, with sweet pickle relish, and a generous dusting of paprika. The dressing tasted fine but the potatoes were undercooked enough to still be crunchy.

A cup of the beer cheese soup ($4.95) had nice sharp cheese flavor, and was flecked with thin slices of onion and carrot. It was creamy and hearty, but perhaps they could've thinned it with some more beer because it was like spooning up a cup of melted Velveeta. I would totally dip bread or a chip into the beer cheese soup, but spooning up a whole cup is a little much, even for me, and I revel in saturated fat so much that I would mainline foie gras if I could.

Speaking of reveling in saturated fat, the Tater Tot Hot Dish ($9.50) set the bar pretty high. It seemed to be a mixture of Stove Top stuffing, cream of mushroom soup, and ground beef, topped with a couple of Tater Tots and melted cheese. Those ingredients combined to give me a glimmer of what it was like to grow up in Minnesota 20 years ago. If they'd seasoned it with road salt and covered the whole thing with snow, it would probably be a slam dunk. If nostalgic comfort food is what they were shooting for, then mission accomplished. While the Tater Tot Hot Dish didn't taste that great, I would eat this with FUCKING GUSTO if I were hungover. Unfortunately, it came with a lame side salad of green leaf lettuce and spinach, which was topped with a glossy maroon pile of pickled beets, onions, and garbanzo beans, which I largely ignored.

Finally the vaunted Minnesota style pizza appeared and I was pleasantly surprised. And by “pleasantly surprised” I mean “completely fucking astonished by how good it tasted.” The 12” Eric the Red ($14.95) featured a crispy thin crust, a rich sweet tomato sauce, salami, pickled peppers, and crumbled Italian sausage. The pickled peppers were vinegary and gave a subtle heat. The flavors were pretty well balanced. The crust shatters when you bite it. Minnesota style pizza is so delicious that I would almost feel bad for ridiculing it earlier if I had a conscience. Luckily I don't, which saves me lots of time. It's so damn good I won't even complain about the retarded way they cut the pie up into squares, instead of wedges like normal pizza.

I'm out of put downs about Zayda Buddy's at this point, which I think is some sort of milestone, so I'll just close with this: while the mythic Minnesota style pizza is very good, I'd probably only go back to Zayda Buddy's if I happened to be in Ballard for some reason. If I lived in Ballard, I'd probably frequent this place, if only for the pizza, but since I don't live around there, they can all go fuck themselves. In the nicest Minnesota way possible.

Rating: 5 bitterly cold Minnesota winters out of 10

Zayda Buddy's Pizza on Urbanspoon