Imagine tender meatballs soaking up perfectly seasoned vine-ripened tomato sauce with fresh basil; a mountain of al-dente pasta twisting and twirling around your fork; clams, shrimp, and scallops swimming in a sea of buttery perfection; and, of course, a glass of red wine to wash it all down. If you love Italian food as much as we do, the South Sound delivers. That’s amore!
By Karen Miller and Lia Lee
Phenomenal views of the Puget Sound accompany wholesome Italian food in Federal Way. For more than 20 years, Verrazano’s Italiano has been serving handmade, authentic Italian classics. Originally opened by Giuseppe Nappo in 1995, Verrazano’s remains as much of a family establishment as when it first opened. Nappo is still involved with developing the menu and recipes today.
The jumbo prawns and scallops here are popular. They’re seared until wonderfully caramelized and served on top of a healthy portion of risotto surrounded by a lobster cream sauce. Order the osso buco for a stunning stick-to-your ribs lamb dish. Verrazano’s version replaces veal with a hearty lamb shank, braised until fall-off-the-bone tender, and served with a side of luscious risotto. The menu, currently executed by head chef Jim Vandeberg, also features salads, pasta, and pizza (available for take-out).
“The staff has been here for years. It doesn’t feel like a sterile, cookie-cutter restaurant. We’re a family here,” said restaurant manager Tara Adams.
The restaurant prides itself on its family values, using the best ingredients possible to make everything in-house. Restaurant regulars and newcomers can taste the difference, from the homemade bread with herbed butter to the various flavorful sauces: simple but essential components to any Italian meal.
Join the family at Verrazano’s, and you may never want to leave. Open seven days a week for lunch, dinner, and happy hour. 253.946.4122 | verrazanos.com
Owned by mother-daughter team Markeen Tower and Erin Behnke, Pomodoro serves simple Italian food with care rivaled only by an Italian grandmother.
The restaurant is nestled among an eclectic collection of independent and family-owned establishments in Tacoma’s Proctor District. Since January 2001, Pomodoro has welcomed hungry shoppers and fortunate locals with great success.
At Pomodoro, fruits of the sea reign supreme. The popular seafood medley includes sautéed jumbo prawns, halibut, and scallops in a white wine lemon cream sauce. The seafood party is tossed with linguine before a garnish of fresh basil and chopped Roma tomatoes. If you prefer clams, you’ll enjoy Moe’s Favorite. This linguine dish features juicy manila clams in a white wine butter sauce with plenty of garlic and herbs. Named after a family friend, Moe’s Favorite might become yours, too.
“We know our customers. They feel like family,” said Behnke.
The staff and patrons are one at Pomodoro’s. One server has been there since the restaurant opened — another for 15 years. There’s a shared history that can’t be manufactured. “Our friendly staff and consistency is what brings people back,” said Behnke.
Pomodoro’s commitment to quality food with excellent service doesn’t come with a huge price tag, and it’s the secret to its success in a competitive industry. The next time you’re wandering through Proctor, stop by for lunch, dinner, or drinks. Call ahead for a table by the street-facing windows, and watch the world go by with your meal. 253.752.1111 | pomodoroproctor.com
Toscanos brings fresh Italian dishes to the Puyallup Valley made to order, and sure to make your mouth water. There are steaks, seafood dishes, fresh salads, and, of course, pasta.
One dish called The Angry Sea is a pasta-based meal overflowing with seafood, including shrimp, calamari, whitefish, and clams. It’s a simple rustic dish with an olive oil-based pan sauce, garlic, parsley, red pepper flakes, and the essence and flavor of the sea. It’s a dish chef and manager Tom Pantley is proud of.
Pantley said Toscanos does pasta differently than your run-of-the-mill restaurant. “I think what makes our pastas dishes unique, is most of the ones we’re doing are pan sauces,” he said. Pan sauces infuse flavor into every bite.
He’s been with Toscanos since it opened 12 years ago. The restaurant was founded on the idea that food should be fresh and special.
“The idea was to do really clean food that’s cooked to order,” he said. Cooking to order means the kitchen can cater to guest needs. It also means that Toscanos’ dishes come out hot and fresh every time. Pantley has been cooking for 32 years, starting out with his own family restaurant. He had a set of customers who brought him onboard when they started Toscanos.
The goal was to bring something new and non-chain to Puyallup. The result? Delicious dishes like truffled prawns and gnocchi. But perhaps even sweeter than the tiramisu and the first-class service is that the company gives back to Puyallup (and the Northwest) in big ways year-round — including giving more than $200,000 to MultiCare’s Good Samaritan Children’s Therapy Unit (just one of many examples). Reservations are recommended for the 50-seat restaurant, which serves both lunch and dinner. 253.864.8600 | toscanospuyallup.com
In a little house in Parkland is something very special for diners — Marzano Italian Ristorante. It’s the best in town, according to locals. That’s something that’s important to Elisa Marzano and her son, Brian, who love being a part of the Parkland community. “It’s really nice to offer the community something special,” said Elisa Marzano. “We’re seeing (customers’) kids grow up and get married and have children.”
She opened the restaurant in 1988, when Brian was 12. It moved to a house-turned-restaurant in 1994, and has been there ever since. It’s a fixture in the community and across the street from Pacific Lutheran University. “We have some dishes on the menu that have been around 20 years,” said Elisa Marzano. The most popular dishes are not on the menu — they’re the specials. And it’s always a fresh, creative, and delicious surprise.
Marzano is a favorite for those celebrating special occasions. And the food shares the spotlight, like the crisp pork belly that is accompanied by pickled raisins, apple balsamic, and draped with broccoli rabe. It’s a showstopper.
The restaurant also has a lunch menu with soups; salads; pizzas; and, of course, that Italian standby, meatballs.
Marzano is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday and open for dinner only on Saturday. Reservations are recommended. 253.537.4191 | dinemarzano.com
“You were born in a pot.”
That’s what chef Michele Simone’s mother told him while growing up in the south of Italy. While he believed the fable only until he was 6 years old, Simone has carried a passion for cooking as long as he can remember.
He traveled throughout Europe with a cooking show, visiting various fairgrounds throughout Italy and beyond. After moving to the United States when he was 36, Simone opened Il Lucano in October 2008. Named after his hometown Oppido Lucano, the restaurant showcases Simone’s Italian pride in the quiet town of Gig Harbor.
The dinner special simply known as “pork chops” is a favorite among diners. “When the people try one, they want it again,” said Simone. His pork chops are a riff on another Italian dish, which requires a very slow cooking process. Without sacrificing any flavor, Simone’s version speeds up the process by using bone-in pork chops that are cooked in balsamic vinegar and honey. Caramelized onions, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and feta cheese join the delicious mix for a tart, sweet, and bitter dance of flavors served on top of perfectly cooked pasta.
“At the beginning, it was tough. They had no idea who I am … but then, step by step, I teach the people how to eat the real Italian way, and I start to be really successful.” Now, Simone is a recognizable figure in Gig Harbor, known for both his cheery, charismatic character and delectable, culinary creations.
For those who want to learn the secrets of cooking “the real Italian way,” he hosts a cooking class every third Monday of the month. It fills up quickly, so book in advance to learn how to make Italian classics in your own kitchen. If you’d rather leave the cooking to the professionals, let Simone and his staff transport you across the Atlantic with only a short trip over the Narrows Bridge.
Il Lucano is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday-Friday and open for dinner only on Sunday. Reservations are recommended. 253.514.8945 | illucanoristorante.com
JOSH DUNN — Publisher
“The food at Pizza Casa in Lakewood is all good. Of course they have pizza, but they also have lasagna, salads, and more.”
LIA LEE — Editorial Intern
“Primo Grill in Tacoma. Grilled chicken under a brick. Yes, I’m usually a vegetarian, but I will make an exception for this!”
MARGO GREENMAN — Staff Writer
“Il Lucano in Gig Harbor is good, but the real reason I love this Italian restaurant is the owner. He’s incredible. He takes such good care of his customers. My favorite dish is the spaghetti and meatballs.”
NATALIE DEFORD — Staff Writer
“I’d have to say Mercato Ristorante in Olympia for brunch.”
BOB CODY — Account Executive
“Europa Bistro in Tacoma has the best lasagna tradizionale, or the fettuccini three ways!”
LANDER MARTINSON — Director of Sales
LISA PATTERSON — Editor in Chief
“Mama Stortini’s lobster mac and cheese is an inexpensive treat during happy hour, which is served throughout the restaurant, so you can get the good deals with kids in tow.”
TERRI HALLIS — Finance Manager
“The chicken Parmesan at Pomodoro in Tacoma is perfection.”
JEFF ISAAC — Account Executive
“The rigatoni with bolognese sauce is amazing at Adriatic Grill in Tacoma.”
SARAH EKLUND — Graphic Designer
“The saucy little meatball sliders at Sorci’s Italian Café and Enoteca in Sumner.”
ALEX SCHLOER — Graphic Designer
“I always get the chef’s specials when I go to Marzano in Parkland.”
NICOLE LOGAN — Client Service Coordinator
“I love the smoked salmon penne at Adriatic Grill. Yum!”
JOANNA KRESGE — Staff Writer
“Verrazano’s in Federal Way has a great view from their deck, and their lasagna is amazing.”
More Top Places with Italian Flair!
Basilico Ristorante Italiano, Olympia
Go there for the freshest pasta, and for gluten-free options that are just as tasty!
Café Vincero, Tacoma
In the heart of downtown Tacoma on Pacific Avenue, this Italian restaurant has a beautiful rustic setting with a modern twist. Chef Kevin Cornwell serves up both classic dishes and new sure-to-be favorites.
Dolce Si Sicilian Bakery, Tacoma
When your sweet tooth calls, this is the answer. Find the small bakery at Point Ruston along the waterfront.