Monday, August 03, 2009

Perche' no

1319 N 49th St
206-547-0222

Perche’ no is located in a McMansion in Wallingford. The building is fucked up looking: gross salmon- colored stucco and pointless quoining indicate that they’re shooting for the “Six Flags Over Italian Food” conceit. It looks out of place in the neighborhood; it really looks like it should be located in a mall parking lot. The prerequisite replica of Michaelangelo’s David swings his disappointingly tiny marble pecker down at you from a corner of the roof. Why try to emulate the Olive Garden? That’s as fucked up as buying a Real Doll that resembles your own mom (note: I have a Real Doll that looks like your mom).

The first difficulty we encountered was the menu: it isn’t exactly written in the Queen’s English. It reads like the dialogue from a poorly translated Nintendo game circa 1988. In fact, with its awkward phrasing and vague subject- verb agreement, it’s more like a Chinese food menu than Italian. According to this menu the cappellini con sardine features “Chef flavor pasta.” As an upstanding citizen I object to being served pasta that tastes like a person; cannibalism is ILLEGAL, you motherfuckers! Another dish has the puzzling ingredient “spine shape pine nuts.” And I always thought they were oblong.

Once I stopped feeling superior to the menu we ordered stuff. The Salumi alla Perche’no was a trio of house- made prosciutto: for $12 you got 6 paper thin slices, 2 each of regular pork, wild boar, and lamb prosciutto, each slice smeared with a drop of olive oil and some diced garlic. This seemed expensive, but what offended me more than the price was the fact that all of the prosciutto was almost inedibly salty. The traditional pork prosciutto was salty but otherwise unremarkable. The wild boar prosciutto was interesting: it tasted like pork, but “porkier,” somehow, as if you genetically engineered a pig so that its legs were made of short ribs instead of ham. Man, would that be fucking delicious. I hope ConAgra gets cracking on creating some shambling, horrific mutant pigs made entirely of short ribs pretty soon. The lamb prosciutto wasn’t that great. Unfortunately for Perche’ no, all lamb prosciutto in this town must inevitably be compared to Salumi’s. Did it stand up? Nope: Perche’ no’s version isn’t even qualified to shake Armandino Batali’s dick after he pisses. It was salty, gummy, and tasted like an old pot roast covered in dust bunnies.

The spinacci della casa ($8) was a spinach salad with sautéed onions and crumbles of pancetta. The spinach was lightly wilted and shellacked with a warm vinaigrette made from the pancetta drippings. Staring up at you from the spinach was a pale areola of watery mozzarella, and the whole thing was garnished with a couple anemic slices of mealy unripe tomato. This salad was actually pretty good, if maybe a bit greasy. The vinaigrette was flavorful, the spinach was very fresh, and there were lots of pancetta bits for crunch. However, the almost flavorless mozzarella was totally unnecessary. And the tomatoes sucked. If you can’t find ripe tomatoes, then DON’T FUCKING INCLUDE THEM. A good tomato is a thing of beauty: sweet as a 1966 Chevelle SS and as enthusiastically juicy as a 30- year- old divorcee. An unripe tomato, on the other hand, is a bitter spinster driving a moped (your mom, in other words).

Next up was the cappellini con sardine ($13). As previously mentioned, this was a dish of “chef flavored pasta.” I guess this particular chef tastes like garlic, sardines, and powdered parmesan cheese, because that’s what the cappellini tasted like. Chunks of roasted garlic peeked out here and there from a bird’s nest of angel hair pasta, which was cooked to a confident al dente. The occasional caper popped its head up now and then, and there were many flakes of fresh- tasting sardine. This was actually pretty tasty except for all the cheese: the waiter unceremoniously dumped a giant snowdrift of powdered parmesan all over my plate which instantly dulled the other flavors. That sandy, dry, fake parmesan with its shitty bouquet of aluminum cans and puke belongs only on late- night pizza, and NOT in the hand of a waiter at any serious Italian restaurant.

The salsicce pizza ($13) had an ephemeral, chewy, and bubbly crust, but the sauce was weird: thin and oddly sweet, it tasted like some kind of Chef Boyardee bullshit. Slices of Italian sausage dotted this crust like meaty hay bales in an Ansel Adams pizzascape. The sausage was juicy and flavorful, when you could actually get a piece of it into your mouth: they tended to unbalance the frail crust, so that when you grabbed a pizza slice, the sausage rolled off, ricocheting off the wooden board upon which the pizza was served. And oh yeah, the pizza comes on a wooden chopping board, which is an apparently significant enough detail for them to mention it on the fucked- up menu.

For dessert we had the Ciocollatta Amaretto Mousse ($7). This was just a simple chocolate mousse, piped up old school in a glass sundae dish. This pretty much sucked. Little lumps of chocolate kept interrupting the consistency, and the amaretto flavor left a nagging aftertaste with each spoonful. The OTHER dessert, however, was really good: raspberries! The waiter kept saying we should get the “raspberries” for dessert. This was apparently a dessert special. The guy danced around with excitement, seeming like he was going to whiz in his pants if we didn’t order it, so I got the fucking raspberries. I thought he meant raspberry gelato, but no, it really was just raspberries: a whole mound of them, red, ripe, and sweet, piled into a cup made of dark chocolate. This sugary ship floated in a pool of crème anglais which had been decoratively spiderwebbed with chocolate sauce. The crème anglais was smooth and not overpoweringly sweet, but really, the raspberries hardly needed the sauce. They were so sweet by themselves that I found myself ignoring the sauce altogether and just scarfing down handfuls of berries.

Perche’ no is the very template of the kind of shitty generic Italian food that’s too big for its britches, a paper tiger, an empty suit. If restaurants were people, Perche’ no would be Sarah Palin. They should’ve called this place “Perche’ FUCK no,” because that’s what I’ll say if anyone ever asks me if I want to go back there. It’s not really THAT terrible, but if it’s Italian cuisine you’re after, Cantinetta is right down the street. I’m sure some people really like Perche’ No, but those people are probably retarded.

Rating: 4.5 raspberries out of 10

Perché No Pasta & Vino on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

Glenn Fleishman said...

I've generally been disappointed in what's called Italian food in Seattle, after having lived for 7 years on the east coast, 5 of them in New Haven.

I like Cafe Lago, which is just a couple leaps away from my house, but I don't quite think of it as Italian food, because almost no food in Italy is made that way. Still, I have favorite dishes there.

But what do you like for echt Italian food in Seattle?

BigDirty said...

I could not agree more. This place underwhelmed and overcharged me. I went about a year ago with my mother and friends and the owner came to our table after we dropped a few hundred on average food and expensive wine and he told us that although none of us wanted dessert he was going to bring us some. THEN HE CHARGED US FOR IT! Get it together asshat. I spend a few hundred you bring me something complimentary and maybe I don't talk poorly of your service on top of your crappy food, but now all I got to say about this place now is "Perche, no? Perche il vostro alimento e cacato"

ndrwmtsn said...

LOL

Surly Gourmand said...

Glenn,

What people call "Italian" food is such a slippery slope; there are so many italian regions and city- states and all that bullshit, and they've each got a distinctive cuisine.

When the Italian nation became unified in 1861, they were effectively binding together a whole bunch of fucks who generally hated each other for centuries. Which is exactly what would happen if your mom and I got married.

So I don't know how you'd define "Italian."

Plus, east coasters are notorious for complaining about how bad the food in Seattle sucks. Of course, that's coming from me, the Grand Wizard of Complainers.

But you asked me what my favorite Italian restaurants in Seattle are, and I'm going to tell you: Spinasse and Cantinetta are clearly the best. If you haven't been to either place, I command you to go immediately.

If you HAVE been to Spinasse and Cantinetta but what you're looking for is some New Jersey style "spaghetti with red gravy," then your local middle school cafeteria can probably fit the bill.

Sincerely,

Your Friend the Surly Motherfucking Gourmand

Glenn Fleishman said...

Very useful advice.

I'm often dubious about the super-regional restaurants, unless they're actually run by people who were born and raised (or spent years in) a place.

When I lived in Maine, there was this remarkable restaurant in Owl's Head, I'm blanking out on the name, that specialized in Swiss cuisine. Run by a Swiss chef from, I think, the canton in which Basel is found. I had spent several days in Basel, and it was all perfect what he offered. (I don't think he served brötli, the half-slice-of-bread with topping for a crazily expensive price that's a Basel specialty.)

So what I often find at an "Italian" restaurant is not very interested because it's trying to be pan-Italian, I suppose. I like Cafe Lago because it's got its own identity that has some vague relationship with Italy, but it's really just Cafe Lago food.

I haven't been to either restaurant you recommend, so that'll be fun to do (two small children at home have restricted dining out and budget).

I'm fortunately not an East Coaster, and thus don't think everything here sucks, restaurants or otherwise. It's true that I could get a great, cheap, authentic meal in New Haven or New York that you simply can't find here. But that's the big city thing -- even New Haven being a small city has a lot of big city properties to it.

Surly Gourmand said...

Big Dirty,

Maybe it wasn't the real owner.

Maybe it was just some guy off the street who wanders into different restaurants, pretending to be the owner, then promises free desserts to people, then leaves, cackling to himself in ruthless glee because he gets his kicks by tricking people into spending money.

However, I feel your pain. The vibe I got from Perche' no was that they were a bunch of grandstanding fucks. If I ever open a restaurant, if you come in I'll comp you a free ice cream sundae. With nuts.

Sincerely,

Your Friend the Surly Motherfucking Gourmand

PS your Italian quote, when entered into Google Translate, means "Why, no? Because your food and cockatoos." Did you find a parrot in your pasta? The service must REALLY suck.

Surly Gourmand said...

Glenn,

you fucking nailed it re: "pan- Italian." The problem is in fact that the real regional cuisine often features rare local ingredients that would be too expensive to import here, and the "pan- Italian" stuff is just lame shorthand. So it's tough for a restaurant to find the right balance.

Part of the problem here in Seattle is that (from what I've heard, at least) the permitting process for restaurants is prohibitively byzantine and expensive. Someone should run for mayor on a platform of cutting through some of this red tape.

As for your lament about the difficulties in dining with the fasmily in tow, Spinasse seems very accomodating to children, so why not check them out sometime?

Sincerely,

Your Friend the Surly Motherfucking Gourmand

SeattleJusty said...

Dear Surly Gourmand,

I really enjoyed reading your review of this restaurant. Passing by such an odd looking place so often as I do, I have commented to my partner on many occasions how much I would like to try that restaurant. Well we finally did so this past Tuesday. We tried our best to keep the bill cheap and forewent any wine for water. We shared the rattle snake risotto appetizer, Fiore con Funghi Porcini e Olio di Tartufi, and a panna cotta for dessert. We sat on the second floor right above the kitchen and conversed with the chef as he prepared our food. The snake-rice (rattler risotto) was very flavorful and I enjoyed all of its complex flavors but my partner said she felt that the flavors just drowned out the snake and defeated the purpose. $15 seems steep for an appetizer but then again, you're paying for the novelty of a meat that tastes like chicken yet has fishbones to pick out of it.
The pasta entree with the fantastically long name was underwhelming. Like so many pastas, it was almost bland and left me deconstructing it to wonder 'how would I make this at home?' or better yet 'how would I have made this better had I made it myself?'.
Our dessert, the panna cotta, was a piece of art presented on a large plate with I believe a mango sauce painted around its perimeter and a shallow sea of the most brilliant and delicious raspberry puree I have ever enjoyed. That dessert for only $5 made me forget all about paying $15 for the appetizer.
I'll say this: Italian restaurants basically suck. Well actually, Chinese restaurants basically suck, Italian restaurants merely suck most of the time. So 2nd place. I have lived in The Bronx and in New Jersey as well as here and the snootiness that East Coaster's possess for their own Italian food is worth about as much as a warm bucket of hamster vomit. The Eastern seaboard needs to get over itself. "Italian-Americans" are about as Italian as the fortune cookies served at any Happy Lucky Golden Dragon. I cook real Italian food at home and none of the dishes are offered on the menu at so called Italian restaurants, so I (and you) should go into said restaurants knowing that you're gonna get some cliches.
However good or bad you may feel the decor or menu or cuisine, I will say that the service we received at Perche No, was hands down the best service I have ever had at any restaurant in Seattle. Let me qualify that by saying that restaurant service in Seattle, by and large sucks harder than Divine Brown on Oscar night. We got out of there for $37 ($43 with tip), had a very good time and ate mostly good food. I would rather go to Bizzaro than Perche No for location, decor, menu, but if I had a group of six people and wanted to entertain with a restaurant spectacle, Perche No would be just the thing.

-SeattleJusty-

Anonymous said...

Wow....very graphic review...maybe you should change from surly to just an asshole....just saying.