Café Veloce mixes casual Italian fare and vintage motorcycle history, resulting in a fun and kitschy atmosphere everyone can enjoy. A clear local favorite, many patrons are greeted by name as soon as they walk through the doors. The vibe is casual, and menu pages are filled with descriptions of mouth-watering Italian pasta and pizzas.
Twenty minutes outside of Seattle, and just ten minutes away from famed Woodinville wine country, this hidden hangout is well worth the short drive. And if you’re already on the eastside enjoying some Pacific Northwest outdoor activities, you’re even closer.
Location: 12514 120th Ave NE, Kirkland, Washington.
Wedged between an O-Reilly’s auto-parts and Yuppie Pawn, the neighborhood Italian joint looks a little dubious from the outside. It’s part of the Totem Lake business park just off the 120th Avenue exit on I-405.
Menu: The multi-page menu at Café Veloce is largely dominated by pasta and pizza. Traditional salads, meatball appetizers, and chocolate soufflé also make an appearance. Plus, they offer gluten-free and vegetarian options as well, making it a perfect choice for those with dietary restrictions. There really is something for everyone.
And when it comes to the wine, they clearly adhere to the motto, “The more, the merrier.”
A board of by-the-glass offerings greets you at the front entrance. Glancing around, you’ll see bottles stacked on shelves, overflowing from niches, and occupying any available surface. Every bottle on the list is nearly retail price, and there’s a well-curated selection of local, domestic, and imports to choose from.
The assortment even includes an extensive list of ports, many paired nicely with decadent dessert offerings.
Thoughts: Chunky tomato sauce mixed with herbs, roasted red peppers, and Italian sausage heaped atop a bed of gluten-free pasta. Across the table, my companion enjoys a crunchy wood-fired pizza. A lovely wine flight sits in front of us, and a crackling fire lights the brick hearth off to the left.
Glancing around these warm and inviting surroundings, it’s hard to believe – are we really really in a strip mall?
The friendly staff offered up a few educated suggestions for us to try, and both of us found them to be spot-on based on our described preferences. My gluten-free Criollo pasta was mouthwatering: the pasta perfectly al-dente, the sauce rich with a slow-simmered tomato flavor and just a touch of heat. My friend stopped eating his Palazzo pizza just long enough to say, “Oh my gosh, this is amazing,” before devouring the entire plate. He especially enjoyed the unusual ingredient combination: a mixture of marinara, alfredo, and pesto, topped with chicken and three different cheeses.
Each of the three wines in our $7 flight was tasty, and the handy note card that accompanied them was informative. We capped the meal with a refreshing dessert, comprised of a scoop of lemon gelato floated inside a flute filled with limoncello. (Note: $7 wine flights are served on Mondays only).
We loved it. It’s a perfect spot for serious wine drinkers who don’t need the pretension of emptying their wallets for a fine restaurant bottle. But it’s also great for families, first dates, vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, and anyone who believes you shouldn’t have to dress up for a nice meal and excellent glass of vino.
The next time you’re in the Seattle area, dine like a local and give it a try.
Price Range: $3 to $25 for food. Dinner portions are easily shared or can be boxed up for lunch the following day.
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Author Bio: Jaimi Truhler is a recovering marketer with a passion for food, travel, and new adventures. She resides in Portland, Oregon, when she’s not out chasing her next travel fix.