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Cafe Lago's Carla Leonardi Reveals Her Favorite Hideaway Restaurant

"I could have sworn my mom must have been cooking with him back in his kitchen."

Pino Rogano
Pino Rogano

Seattle is home to a lot of restaurants, and among them are hidden gems some Seattleites just aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food luminaries to share with us their under the radar recommendations for a weekly feature dubbed Dining Confidential.

Carla Leonardi moved from New York City to open Cafe Lago with her husband, Jordi Viladas. The couple opened the Montlake restaurant in 1990 and it has become such a community staple that Leonardi told Eater "I've hired children to work here who came here as infants and now they're 18, 19."

Though she's not a Seattle native, Leonardi and her restaurant have become an enduring part of the local restaurant scene. Eater asked her to weigh in on her favorite under-the-radar dining spot in honor of Classics Week.

The first time I met Calabrian-born Pino Rogano it was over lunch, but I fell in love with his restaurant Da Pino over dinner. I found his sausages for sale at a butcher shop and hoping to purchase them for Café Lago I gave him a call. "If you want to buy my sausages, you have to come have lunch," he told me, and he meant it, we had lunch that day at his restaurant Da Pino in Ravenna. It felt like home from the moment I walked in, but after joining a small gathering at Da Pino in the evening I was completely transported.

Pino Rogano runs an enviable, seemingly impossible one-man show in his cozy Ravenna restaurant. Not only does he make his own salumi (try the wild boar or venison), pork sausages, amazing pickled mushrooms, and soulful pasta, he is also the server, bartender and dishwasher.

Last week he delighted me with a baccala dish so personally nostalgic that I could have sworn my mom must have been cooking with him back in his kitchen. It probably seems strange that my hideaway is Italian because I already have a lot of pasta in my life, but going to Pino's is heartwarming. I can't get enough.

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