Dining Italian from Siena to Seattle.
SEATTLE–Well, first there was the disappointment of not having a parlor car on the Coast Starlight coming up from Oakland. Now there is the disappointment of realizing that Assaggio’s, my favorite restaurant here in Seattle, where I was planning to have dinner tonight, is closed on Sundays.
I discovered Assaggio Ristoranti by accident probably 15 years ago when I came to Seattle on business. Quite randomly, I picked a hotel that happened to be right next door to the restaurant. That’s the reason I chose the hotel where I’m staying on this trip.
All is not lost, however, because Tulio’s (above photo) is another superb Italian restaurant here, and It is open today. It means a short cab ride, but I will certainly plan to have dinner there tonight. And, since I’m not leaving Seattle until 4:40 p.m. tomorrow when the Empire Builder departs, that leaves plenty of time for lunch at Assaggio’s.
This past June, during my two weeks in Italy, I chose restaurants pretty much by looking over the posted menu at the front door and peering in to see what the interior looked like. A number of the meals were rather disappointing. Finally, in Siena, and quite by accident, I stumbled on what proved to be a better way to pick a really good restaurant.
I had struck up a friendly rapport with Aldo, one of the waiters in the restaurant at the hotel where I was staying, and at breakfast one morning, I asked him where he would take his wife out to eat for her birthday. Aldo gave me the name of a small restaurant nearby and I had several meals there while I was in Siena. In fact, I had an almost instant rapport with the owner of the place because he had vacationed in Hawaii several years earlier.
On my second visit there, I mentioned that my favorite pasta dish, carbonara, was not on his menu. “You want carbonara?” he said. “Why not!” And he disappeared into the kitchen to prepare a wonderful carbonara just for me. And he wished me aloha when I left.
When I went on the Coast Starlight from Seattle to Los Angeles last November (2014), the Parlour Car wasn’t available although I think I was told that it was present on the North Bound journey. The Chief held the wine tasting in the Dining Car and opened it up to all passengers. But everyone even the first class passengers had to pay for it.
Everyone had to pay this time, too.
Another great Italian restaurant in Seattle is Café Bengodi on 1st Ave at Cherry Street, right by Pioneer Square! It’s a very small restaurant set slightly below street level and has maybe 15 tables inside, with another 5-10 on the patio in nice weather. I had two nights in Seattle a couple of years ago, and ate in the first night before getting takeout the second night. Both meals were excellent!
Do we know why there was no Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight?
And, as a substitute, did you mean there was a second
Sightseer Lounge car on the train? And was it available to just
sleeping car passengers?
And, yes, you would think a tie-in with California wineries would be great merchandising and PR for both them and Amtrak. Didn’t I hear or read somewhere that Amtrak had a dedicated west coast long-distance manager stationed in Los Angeles. If so, couldn’t he arrange that. More than that, could you provide his name and contact information here so we can make suggestions to him directly?
I would tell him that I would rather pay something for amenities like wine, cheese, newspapers, coffee, juice, and ice, than to see them go away.
There was no explanation. The car attendant said they told her at the last minute that they had to switch out the parlor car and substitute a second Sightseer Lounge car. I don’t remember them saying it was exclusively for the sleeping car passengers but, as a practical matter, that’s how it worked out.
The wine tasting cost $7.50 per person and was held in the Sightseer Lounge/Parlour car. Because of the configuration of the seats, it was hard to tell how many people had signed up, but it wasn’t more than a dozen, tops.And coach passengers were invited to participate.
I’m not sure who the right person at Amtrak is, but will find out and publish the name and address. A letter or two certainly couldn’t hurt.