Sometimes, going out to eat is all about the food.
But usually, there’s more to it. At the original Cantinetta in Wallingford, there is plenty to like beyond the remarkable homemade pastas. The candlelit space has a whispered, undeniable sexiness.
And, in spite of its location (on the street level of a modern condominium building), Cantinetta’s sister restaurant on Bellevue’s Main Street is similarly alluring. Inside, dark wood is offset by creamy vanilla walls. Tall ceilings wear heavy wrought-iron fixtures like dangly earrings. And the crowd looks as if it just stepped off a private plane from L.A.
The contoured bar in back is ideal for people watching and sharing the stellar beef carpaccio ($13), brightened with just a whisper of lemon. And then there’s the pappardelle ($16.50), an intensely aromatic plate of tender thumb-wide pasta strands dressed in a hearty Bolognese sauce with hints of chiles and rosemary. On one visit, the risotto (pumpkin in autumn, but flavors change seasonally; $15.50) arrived just slightly beyond toothsome, but it was still deeply satisfying.
The only real letdown: a braised veal shank served over white beans that was billed as osso buco ($19), but was too stripped down to count as such. Still, the sophisticated mood of the place is every bit as much of a reason to drop by. That great pappardelle? It’s just a bonus. Dinner Tue.–Sun. Bellevue, 10038 Main St.; 425.233.6040; cantinettabellevue.com. $$