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First Look: Barolo Ristorante

Barolo opened its doors a few months ago and although this is a brand new restaurant the owners have a long history with Mamma Melina’s in the U-district, among other ventures.  The Varchetta brothers have opened this new place in an interesting location and I think it could turn out well for them. 
Housed on the first floor of the Metropolitan Tower at the corner of Westlake and 6th it sits on the edge of the downtown area, but on an edge that may soon be on the main route to the booming South Lake Union District.  At the current time, however, if you approach from downtown or the Westin things seem just fine.  If you approach from the North or East though things still feel a bit seedy.  I parked just a block away but was directly in front of the Fantasy Limited location…
Having said that, though, it’s not like the neighborhood is scary just a bit unseemly on the one side.  Once you enter the restaurant though all of that is left behind.  The interior is really nice; modern yet welcoming.  My lunch companion, SW and I were seated at a little booth just inside the front door.  It was an interesting booth, U-shaped and with two tables.  Two others sat at the other end of the booth from us.  At first I thought that might be distracting or feel a bit too crowded but once we settled in there really was no issue.  And it would be nice if you had a larger group as everyone could squeeze in together.
We arrived at 1:00 and most others in the place were finishing up their meals and leaving.  The staff was preparing for a holiday party but still gave us plenty of attention.  And we were sort of evil guests as we were trying to get caught up on all that had happened the last couple of months and not even looking at the menu for the first 10 minutes or so. 
While we were chatting a lovely plate of bread and olive oil with tapenade appeared at our table. I held myself to just one piece so that I could enjoy the rest of my meal, too.  We started with carpaccio – SW was a great sport as this is not something he would normally order being a transplanted Brit with a less adventurous style of eating, although he always humors me – and it was lovely.  The presentation and total freshness reminded me of carpaccio from my favorite place in New York’s Little Italy, Il Cortile
While we were enjoying the carpaccio we finally managed to order our entrées.  SW ordered a trout dish and I ordered risotto, although I was very tempted to order the ravioli of the day which sounded heavenly, although I’ve now forgotten exactly what it was. 
SW’s trout arrived and it was a huge amount of fish!  It was simply prepared with wine, butter and lemon then topped with a few capers (there seemed to be a lot of capers around as you can seen in the carpaccio photo, too!).  SW really loved the greens that came along with it. 
I hardly noticed what he was eating (although I did have a bite) because I was way too involved in my risotto.  The risotto itself was a wild mushroom risotto and it was topped with a housemade, wild-boar sausage.  The presentation wasn’t quite what I expected (which is not their fault) and once I got past that I was a very happy person.  The sausage was a bit spicy with a lot of fennel which it always the thing that says "Italian" to me.  It was very tasty.  And the creamy, earthy risotto was a perfect foil or complement to the spiciness. 
Neither of us could finish our plates.  SW took half of his trout home and I took about a third of my dish home with me.  It made a lovely breakfast the next day! 
I thought it was all very good and would like to try several other things on the menu.  However, my next visit will probably be for one of their Happy Hours. They run Monday-Friday 3-6:30 and every day 10:00-close and include 50% off the bar menu; $3.5 white or red wine by the glass; $3 pints of beer and $14 for a bottle of red or white wine!  Not sure what wines they offer for this deal but I’m anxious to find out!
Barolo Ristorante
1940 Westlake Ave (Westlake and 6th)
Reservations online via Open Table

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