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Old School Goes Locavore: Fresh is in Season at Armondo's

Armondo’s started as a ten-top table restaurant, and has moved and expanded over its 25 years to accommodate more than 100 guests at a time.

Sometimes you have to go out of Renton, to make a discovery about Renton. Case in point the new “Simple Seasonal Local” themed menu at Armondo’s, which my husband discovered when the team was passing out the new spring menu at Taste Washington. He returned home with it and we were both excited to see that Armondo’s wasn’t just a typical “spaghetti red” joint.
 
Armondo’s started as a ten-top table restaurant, and has moved and expanded over its 25 years to accommodate more than 100 guests at a time. At prime dinner time on a Friday night, it was so busy we were seated within the bar area at a table. With colorful Chihuli-like glass work, and a large brick oven blazing away, the atmosphere is a far cry from the glossy red checkered tablecloth and fake plastic flowers that are the theme of most family Italian restaurants.

It’s always a good sign when it’s hard to choose your dishes, because so many items sound appealing. At Taste Washington, my husband received a pass for a free Tuscan Picnic ($10/$16) which was happily presented to us. The Picnic included marinated olives, yellow peppers, red onions and celery, grilled bread slices, thin provolone, and an assortment of cured meats. All diners are also given a large plate of complimentary oven-baked flat bread, sprinkled with Parmesan, olive oil, and a drizzle of basil sauce. 

The seven different Bruschetta options, only $2 each, looked quite tempting, but with pizza being hand tossed and baked in a blazing oven, we decided to order one of the five pizza options ($10/$15). I love Cotechino, the sausage traditionally served around Christmas on a bed of lentils, so the Cotechino Pizze caught my eye. The Cotechino is apparently made in-house, but it was missing the hit of spices (clove, coriander, nutmeg, mace) that makes this sausage.

I toyed with ordering the Spring Onion & Pea Soup with torn croutons, mint ($3/$5) which I saw being poured with ceremony from a glass carafe into a neighboring diner’s bowl. With our table vying for space, we chose the Warm Seafood Insalate with arugula, white beans, and petite tomatoes ($9/$16). I will say that the portion of seafood is generous--I applaud chef Tom Small and owner, Armondo Pavone, for choosing local clams and mussels—baby clams, steamed mussels, scallops, calamari and prawns are tossed in abundance with peppery arugula and cannellini’s. 

I was torn between many of the Primi pasta offerings, but our enthusiastic server talked me into her favorite, Goat Cheese Tortellini with black olive and tomato butter ($10/$18). The tortellini was definitely house made, generously stuffed with soft goat cheese, but the combination of salty chevre with black olives and an overly seasoned fresh tomato saute left me grabbing for my water glass. I regret not getting to try one of their Bolognese offerings.

From the Secondi section of the menu, we chose the Chicken Alla Diavola, a reasonable $18, for two large pieces of bone-in Draper Valley chicken with smoked chile and citrus rub, the crispy skin served blackened and grilled, along with a sizable serving of spring panzanella salad. Panzanella is a traditional Florentine bread salad, where stale bread chunks are soaked, wrung out, and dressed with olive oil, vinegar, tomatoes-- a quintessential Tuscan dish. These bread chunks lacked the moist aspect which is a signature of the dish, but rather crisp than mushy, which is another Panzanella tragedy. A simple peasant dish that’s tricky to execute. Kudos for going out on a limb rather than serving an over-dressed bowl of greens from a bag.

Finally, we went for one of the many tempting Dolci. Growing up in New York, Spumoni was always a favorite dessert treat. Once again, Armondo’s has taken the initiative to make this flavorful ice cream confection in house ($6), serving two large slices of rich, striped pistachio, chocolate, and cherry gelato. Next time, I'll save room for the cannoli, too ($3).

The summer menu will roll out in early June, and I look forward to seeing what Armondo’s will feature in the height of tomato and basil season.

 

Armondo's

310 Wells Avenue South
Renton, WA 98057

Phone

425.228.0759

Hours of Operation

Lunch

Monday thru Friday
11:30AM to 2:30PM

Dinner

Sunday thru Thursday
5:00PM to 9:00PM

Friday thru Saturday
5:00PM to 10:00PM

Happy Hour

Everyday
5:00PM to 7:00PM

Tonya Alan Skuse May 13, 2011 at 08:33 PM
5-7 happy hour? i have a groupon to use...
Nathan June 11, 2011 at 04:16 PM
Better use it quick - they close next week.
Jenny Manning June 12, 2011 at 06:06 PM
Yes, we heard about that. Check back tonight for an article about Armondo's closing.
Catherine Reynolds June 25, 2011 at 08:34 PM
I am so sorry to hear about Armondo's closing. I hope I in no way impacted that. Will certainly continue to patronize the Pavone-family's Melrose Grill, a true Renton gem. If you haven't been, you've been missing out.

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