Let’s face it, most dads love to eat. So it seems fitting, in honor of Father’s Day, that a trio of dads share their favorite father-friendly spots that kids enjoy, too.
Distinctive pizza in a bustling neighborhood joint
When it comes to family pizza night, there’s a new kid on the block, and she means business. OK, maybe she’s not that new, but there’s no doubt that in the last year and a half, Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria, located in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, has made its mark on the region’s pizza scene.
Tutta Bella is a certified purveyor of Vera Pizza Napoletana, a distinction bestowed on only 12 U.S. restaurants so far (Tutta Bella was the 10th; the nearest competitor is in California).
The rules for certification are intricate and detailed, befitting a tradition that goes back 150 years. The tomatoes must be San Marzanos, which are grown only in the volcanic soil near Mt. Vesuvius. The cheese must be fresh, whole-milk mozzarella. The flour is Type “00,” extremely fine and low in gluten, which produces the soft, chewy texture typical of Neapolitan crusts. The dough may only be mixed by hand or with an approved mixer. Only fresh yeast or yeast of beer may be used. The crusts must be formed by hand — no rolling pins or other devices allowed. The pizzas must be cooked on the surface of a wood-burning oven, not in a pan or on a conveyor belt.
Are all the rules worth it? It depends a little bit on your definition of pizza. Keep in mind, if pizza to you means New York style, like that served at Piecora’s or Pagliacci, or what I call Greek style, a la Romio’s or Olympia Pizza, or deep dish like they used to make at Testa Rossa, you won’t find that here.
What you will find are individually sized pizzas with a light, soft crust that smells wonderfully of fresh baked bread. As for toppings, if you’re looking for pepperoni or Canadian bacon and pineapple, good luck. Meat lovers should instead try the Pancetta e Pomodoro, featuring pancetta ham and herb mushrooms. The closest thing to pepperoni comes on the Antica, with its trio of Genoa salami, herb mushrooms and roasted red pepper. There are also the old country classics: the Margherita, or the Quattro Formaggi, with garlic, oregano, gorgonzola, parmesan, mozzarella and “formaggi di casa.”
Tutta Bella is a favorite with families and soccer teams for its bustling atmosphere, the drama and flair of the oven — visible from many of the tables — and a decidedly kid-friendly atmosphere. Kids can watch Tutta Bella’s own pizzaioli at work assembling their pie and tending the fire. The restaurant also provides Wikki Stix as an alternative to crayons, which kids can use to sculpt and invent their own creations while they wait. You might even ask for a sample of dough so they can practice their crust-pulling technique.
This popularity does mean that finding a seat can be a challenge. Lines are not unusual, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, when they don’t take reservations. If you’ve got a group of eight or more, you can reserve a table Sunday through Thursday. Saturday afternoons, between lunch and dinner, is probably your best bet if you want to avoid waiting.
So if you’re ready for a new twist on pizza night, Tutta Bella is worth the effort. But don’t be surprised if, after a couple of bites, other pizza pies start to seem a bit square by comparison.
Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria
4918 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle
Hours: : Monday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday 3-9 p.m.
Visa & MasterCard/Non-smoking/No obstacles to access
Josh Parks is a Seattle-based freelance writer and editor and father of two. He also regularly contributes articles on fantasy baseball for www.baseballnoteboook.com.
Mexican food and cool toys on the Eastside
By Dave Miller
When we eat out as a family, I have the important responsibility of suggesting where we go. Unfortunately, somehow my wife and children ended up with veto power. They use it mercilessly.
The kids like costumed mascots, TV cartoons and waiters who sing a special rendition of “Happy Birthday” five times during dinner. Dad’s desires are slightly different: no mascots, no cartoons and above all, no singing.
We’ve found a compromise in Ooba’s, a Mexican restaurant in Redmond. The atmosphere is casual. Don’t worry about those sloppy children; the furniture is rugged and the floors are cement.
You place your order at the counter, and the staff calls your name when the order is ready (when they are busy) or brings it to your table (when they aren’t).
The kids’ menu, starting at $2, lists quesadillas, burritos and a build-your-own-taco. My daughter loves the novelty of building a taco with grilled chicken, cheese, lettuce and white beans. My littlest prefers the basic cheese quesadillas. They both claim the burritos are too spicy, even though they are similar to the tacos.
For adults, there are the standard burritos, tacos and quesadillas, containing excellent grilled chicken and steak. You’ll also find less-common choices such as fish burritos and spinach quesadillas. I enjoy the grilled skirt steak burrito with white beans, rice, jack cheese, pico de gallo and crema de chipotle. My wife loves the grill plate with salmon, which includes minted white rice and a wonderful grilled asparagus, prepared with a chipotle rub and lime juice. Ooba’s is also one of the rare casual restaurants where you can take children and also order a beer for dad.
The most important consideration, however, is how to keep the kids entertained when there are no 5-foot-tall stuffed rodents walking around. Several toys mounted on boards hang from a table near the counter and include kid-pleasing choices such as Etch-a-Sketch, magnetic doodle pads and simple electronic games.
A second Ooba’s is located in Woodinville, with a similar menu. Both locations have made it onto our short list of family friendly restaurants that adults and kids can all enjoy.
Dave Miller is a software engineering manager and father of two living in Sammamish.
Redmond: 15802 N.E. 83rd St.
Woodinville: 17302 140th N.E.
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.
Local checks, American Express, Visa, MasterCard/Non-smoking/No obstacles to access
Basic kids’ menu, good pub grub in Fremont
By Derek Blaylock
When dining out with children, parents can choose a kid’s restaurant or a restaurant that accommodates kids. The former offers singing waiters, plenty of trans fats and enough sodium to melt a glacier. The latter pleases adults as well as children, with above-average grub, stimulating atmosphere and a diverse crowd.
If you can’t tell your favorite family restaurant from a daycare center, try Norm’s Eatery and Alehouse in Fremont. It feels so grown-up you might ask the hostess, as I did, if children are even permitted. Indeed they are, and haggard parents longing to relive some pre-child tavern crawling should visit immediately, with kid(s) in tow.
To those familiar with kid-centric mall restaurants, Norm’s might come as a shock. The highchairs are stacked against a side wall, tucked (hidden?) away. Crayons look scrounged from a garage sale. Lighting is dim and booths are painted black; the crowd is mostly college age. But the staff is polite and eager to please, the food basic and tasty in an up-downscale sort of way.
Most pub fare has gotten so downright respectable that you can actually eat it without beer. Fortunately, Norm’s has taken a step back. Sure, there are a couple pastas and one or two vegetarian items, but the kitchen’s heart is in its heart-stopping burgers. Try the Three Pepper burger, a mass of peppercorn-coated coarse ground chuck, provolone cheese, roasted red peppers and poblano mayonnaise ($9.50). The fries that come with it are too salty but good for dipping in the zippy wasabi tartar sauce. Fish and chips are crispy and generously portioned. And when they say “chips” they mean American ones: marvelous house-made potato chips that taste like high-end Pringles.
The kids’ menu is basic, and not exactly brimming with health food: chicken strips, grilled cheese, a burger and a pasta dish, all served in enormous portions. The pasta was topped with a mild red sauce, and our toddler ate heartily. There was plenty left over for Dad’s lunch the next day. I found the noodles perfectly cooked, the sauce flavorful. Norm’s clearly takes its children’s menu seriously.
Derek Blaylock lives in Seattle with his wife and 3-year-old son.
Norm’s Eatery and Alehouse
460 N. 36th St., Seattle
4 p.m.-midnight; Thursday-Friday 4 p.m.-2 a.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-2 a.m.; Sunday noon-midnight
Full bar/Visa & MasterCard/
Smoking allowed in bar/no obstacles to access.