Find a little piece of Italy at Issaquah’s Tutta Bella

August 18, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Though Issaquah is more than 5,000 miles from Italy, you don’t have to travel that far to find your own slice of Italian heaven.With the opening of his fifth restaurant, owner Joe Fugere has brought Tutta Bella to the Eastside and landed right on Gilman Boulevard.

Simple chairs, tables and utensils; concrete floors; exposed beams and bright colors decorate the walls. It’s easy to focus your attention on who you’re with and the food, rather than what’s on the wall next to you.

Even the eye-catching, seemingly complex kitchen is quite simplistic.

Over a glass wall, gleaming tiles decorate the front of two large marble wood-fired ovens, named for Fugere’s mother, Maria, and grandmother, Carolina.

In front of the ovens, chefs bustle around the kitchen preparing dough with fine flour, smearing fresh organic San Marzano tomato sauce, roasting chickens, and rotating pizzas and calzones.

Scores of handcrafted cocktails with premium Italian liquors and fresh ingredients are the first stop for those over 21 who are thirsty.

Try the refreshing Basilicata ($9) made with grappa — an Italian grape-based liquor — paired with fresh basil, Limoncello, Prosecco and lemon served on the rocks. On the fruitier side, the Cosmopolita Del Pomgranat ($9) is a fresh twist on a favorite.

Either will hit the spot after a long day of work, but there are also a wide variety of Italian wines and a house beer, made by big al brewing in Seattle, crafted to complement the pizza dough at the restaurant.

If you’re in for greens, try the insalata di mista, or house salad. Fresh field greens, sweet vinegar-soaked red onions, white beans, carrots, roasted red peppers and kalamata olives swim in white balsamic vinaigrette. Add gorgonzola cheese for $1.50 and a small one will cost $8.50.

If you’re feeling like a bite of Naples, try the insalata di Napoli, $10 for a small and $13 for a large, but be warned: This isn’t a salad for light appetites.

With fire-roasted chicken breast, crispy pancetta, carrots, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives, and crumbled gorgonzola cheese atop a bed of fresh romaine tossed in a white balsamic and Caesar dressing. Each ingredient adds a uniquely bold characteristic, and yet they balance one another. The sweetness of the carrots is met with the saltiness of the pancetta and the texture of the artichoke balances the creaminess of the gorgonzola.

Of course, what is an Italian restaurant without its pizza?

Two favorites are the quattro fromaggi ($11.50) and the Tutta Bella ($12.50).

The quattro fromaggi, or the four-cheese pizza, is nothing less than a cheese-lovers heaven, combining fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola cheese, shredded mozzarella, shredded provolone and grana padano with oregano and slivered garlic. It’s a little bit of upscale cheese meets downtown standby that makes this the perfect palate pleaser.

For something spicier, the Tutta Bella pizza uses fresh mozzarella, roasted onions and mushrooms and a spicy Iserino’s Italian sausage. The wood-fired grill highlights the delightfully spicy, fennel-laden sausage.

Whatever you do, don’t forget the gelato. Save room or ask for take-home boxes for your food, since the gelato is handmade in Seattle using fresh, seasonal ingredients, like pears, melons and berries. One scoop is $2.50.

Tutta Bella

715 N.W. Gilman Blvd.

391-6838 orders to go/reservations

www.tuttabella.com

11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. – 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday

$8 – $13 for appetizers and salads; $9 – $13 for pizzas

Reach Reporter Chantelle Lusebrink at 392-6434, ext. 241 or clusebrink@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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