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Palermo – 3/26/2011

Website

Location: 2005 NW Market St

Hours:

Sun: 9:30am-10 pm

Mon-Thurs: 11am-10pm

Fri: 11am-11pm

Sat: 9:30am-11pm

After having seen Sucker Punch at the Cinerama, J was in the mood for Italian for some reason, so we decided to visit the cheaper of the many Italian options in Ballard. Odd that. There are as many Italian restaurants in Ballard as there are Thai.

Palermo is in a storefront right on Market Street tucked in between a dry cleaners and the now empty storefront that once housed Epilogue Books. It’s a very unassuming little place. Light. Airy. Not at all pretentious. It feels like the family run restaurant it seems to be. The menu is long ranging from calzones to pizza to hot sandwiches to pasta and all with an Italian flair with hints of Greece here and there.

The Service:

Our waitress was very friendly, pausing to describe the special in great detail. She willingly answered our questions about the content of our dishes. Once we ordered, the food, a salad course followed by pasta, came out with amazing speed. Especially the pasta course, which came out virtually the minute we had finished our salads and was piping hot.

The Drinks:

J and I decided to share a carafe of the house red wine. It wasn’t the best red wine I’ve ever had but it was fine. Obviously a red blend, the wine had a bitey grape flavor with a surprisingly smooth finish. J commented that the wine tasted like it was made in the back of the restaurant … in a good way.

The Food:

The meal came with a huge house baked roll and a dipping oil of olive oil and paprika. The roll was hot, tender and delicious. J loved the dipping oil with its spicy, almost curry tasting bite.

I ordered the Penne alla Vodka with Seafood, vodka sauce with clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, octopus, garlic, basil and parmesan with a side Caesar salad. The Caesar salad was heaped high with romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and a creamy Caesar dressing. While the dressing lacked the anchovy flavor I’m so fond of, I enjoyed its  slightly salty richness.

The seafood pasta, naturally, had a strong, almost overwhelming, fresh “seafood” taste. I could pull out the distinctive flavors of the clams, mussels and calamari with each bite. The seafood portion was quite tasty with its freshness with each creature well cooked.

My issue with the dish was that the seafood flavor almost completely masked the vodka sauce. With ach bite, I was nearly unable to taste the sauce and what of it I did manage to taste was bland. I ended up squeezing lemon juice, from the lemon wedge that came with my Caesar salad, onto the pasta just to cut the seafood taste. This did bring forth a little of the sauce giving it a brightness it lacked. I would have enjoyed the pasta dish more if the sauce had been bolder. Perhaps a stronger kick of tomato or basil.

J ordered the Baked Fettuccini with Meatballs, in a classic Alfredo sauce backed with feta, parmesan and mozzarella cheese with a side salad. He was pleasantly surprised. It reminded him of Italian restaurants in Pennsylvania, where most of them were run by Greeks. He loved this dish finding the smallish meatballs perfect, delightfully moist with a hint of sweetness. His comment was “I don’t need a meatball the size of a softball.” He felt the addition of feta to the baked cheese topping added a interesting dimension to what could’ve been a common baked pasta.

The Price:

Carafe of House Red Wine: $17.95

Penne alla Vodka with Seafood: $14.25

Baked Fettucini with Meatballs: $13.50

The Verdict:

Even though I felt there was a certain blandness to my pasta, I would be willing to give Palermo another shot. I tried a bite of J’s fettuccini, which was far more flavorful than my penne. I wouldn’t mind trying one of their baked pastas or their calzones, for that matter. The prices are good for the amount and quality of food you receive. It’s a really nice family style restaurant with homemade, inexpensive Italian-Greek food with just enough unexpected touches to make it interesting.

Once this project is done, we’ll go back to Palermo whenever we feel like a good, homey Italian meal that won’t break the bank.

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