Serafina Osteria & Enoteca has been a staple Italian eatery in the Lake Union – specifically Eastlake – neighborhood for nearly 25 years now. The owner, Susan Kaufman, opened the Lake Union restaurant just over 23 years ago in 1991.
“We serve rustic Italian food with a regional focus,” says General Manager Rachel Aiken. “With our daily specials, we try to match Italian tradition with regional produce, and mirror what’s going on in Italy here.”
The menu changes once each season to take advantage of everything that’s fresh and available. But a Serafina signature dish is the “Melanzane alla Serafina”: thinly sliced eggplant rolled with ricotta cheese, fresh basil and parmesan, then baked in a tomato sauce and served over cappellini aglio e olio. Mussels are also always on Serafina’s menu, and their calamari is a bit unique because it’s not breaded or fried like you normally find.
“It’s a balance of the comforting, traditional items and those things that are fresh, new and seasonal,” Aiken said.
All of the restaurants’ pastas are made in-house, and are handmade. “One of our sous chefs is all about pasta, and right now all pasta is cooked to order,” she said.
“Service is what makes us special. Our servers go above and beyond,” says owner Susan Kaufman. “There are many things you get out of restaurants when you dine, but one is most important: to feel taken care of.”
They have a fantastic loyal customer base too. “We have those people who come back time and time again, Rachel Aiken said.
That commitment to service is exemplified in Serafina/Cicchetti’s ‘Consiglio’. Inspired by “The Godfather” and designed to ensure the restaurant makes the best decisions, the Consiglio is Kaufman’s way to lead the way for many more years of Serafina. The group is made up of 14 people and includes individuals of all ages, careers, and backgrounds. They meet once per month to discuss future plans, goals, and changes, and then they email throughout the month to make sure things happen.
Serafina has an affordable, but well-chosen wine list. The restaurant also makes unique house-infused spirits such as quince-infused brandy, cinnamon tequila, lime pastis, and honey-vanilla bourbon. The infusions make great seasonal cocktails, particularly when made with some of Serafina’s Italian-sourced liqueurs.
Cicchetti and Serafina’s staff hold wine, cocktail, and cooking classes almost on a monthly basis, in addition to the occasional wine dinner. Another fun cocktail program the restaurants have going is their ‘Cocktail Masters’. Customers keep little booklets at the restaurant with different spaces to record your notes as you try various cocktails. Once you pass certain levels, you receive prizes such as a jar of Marasca cherries from Italy, a top-secret cocktail recipe book and starter kit, or chance to create your own signature cocktail!
Cicchetti was opened three years ago as Serafina’s catering-centric branch. It was a solution “for those who always wanted a bigger bar, or a private dining room, or a more casual way to enjoy the warmth and vitality of Serafina,” according to the restaurant’s website.
The space is often used for the classes offered through the restaurant, as well as for private event rentals (only a food and beverage minimum is required). When it opened, Kaufman purchased a gorgeous glass chandelier made in Venice for Cicchetti’s entrance space. It arrived in thousands of pieces that needed assembly – a job completed by one of Seattle glass artist Dale Chihuly’s apprentices.
It may be an extension of Serafina’s notable prestige, but Cicchetti also boasts its own unique flavor. All of the spice mixes used in the menu items are made in-house – you can purchase three of the mixes for $12 if you want to cook with Cicchetti flavors at home.
Another unique (and mouth-watering) feature is that everything in the restaurant is roasted or cooked in Cicchetti’s wood-fired oven. Some of Cicchetti’s most popular menu items are their house-made falafel and their Lamb Kefta.
Serafina is serving full dinner daily from 5 – 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Lunch is served on weekdays only from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and happy hour is also on weekdays, from 4 – 6 p.m. Late night happy hour is Sunday through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. Call 206-323-0807 for reservations.
Cicchetti is open for dinner only from 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday through Thursday, and 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. The bar is open an hour longer than the kitchen. Happy Hour is Tuesday through Friday from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Call 206-859-4155 for reservations or private event and catering information.