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It's Italian for 'quaint'

olympia eatery is a fine how do you do, but the food tastes great / by jake and jason de paul

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ANNOUNCER: The boys have made the Brotherhood Tavern their satellite office ever since they were old enough to pay their own tab (though they seldom do). The shuffleboard, the funky lights, the velvet U.S. presidents, the hipsters — heaven. But when they have had their fill of cash-only booze, they take a dinner meeting next door at Trinacria Ristorante Italiano — an intimate Sicilian hole in the wall with a big heart.

JASON: What does Trinacria (pronounced Tree-NAH-cree-ah) mean, anyway?

JAKE: I think it’s Italian for “We only have one entrée with meat.”

JASON: I love the feel of the place, even though Chef Eugenio Aliotta and crew appear like they could care less that I, or most any one else, is there. If I had a dollar for everyone I’ve watched languish by the door waiting for someone to lead them to a table, I could hire someone to do the waiting for me while I chill next door at the Brotherhood (though there are quite a few people hanging on the streets in Olympia who might do the waiting for half the going rate — or for half my beer next door).

JAKE: I change my mind. Trinacria means “You can only eat if there are five open tables.” I dropped in one Friday night around 7 p.m. without a reservation. After a five-minute wait at the door, someone told me they were booked solid for the weekend. Although four empty tables waited, I left. An hour later, when I emerged from the Brotherhood, 90 percent of the tables were empty. After a self check for signs of embarrassment, I assumed they’re aiming for a “must have reservations” reputation.

JASON: I suppose it’s the food that brings them back, but the laissez faire attitude is tough to stomach. Once we did get a table, it took 17 minutes to order a drink. While I sent missile-like stares to the wait staff, they visited with friends, chatted with the cooks and gawked at the people waiting at the entrance (as if they didn’t know why people were in their establishment).

Once orders were taken and drinks served, the evening settled into a more routine dining situation — even though we never did get bread delivered to the table.

JAKE: Maybe Trinacria means “No Bread for You!”

JASON: Maybe we should stop.

JAKE: Actually, during my second and third visits I was treated like royalty, including a visit by Aliotta to inquire if my experience was positive, which after stellar service, warm environs and delicious Southern Italian meals.

Setting the record straight, Trinacria is the ancient name for the Sicilian region where Aliotta’s hometown of Catania sits, as well as where all his recipes originate heavy on red sauce, pasta and olive oil. Aliotta and his wife, Shelia Cannon, have changed the menu very little since its opening in 1989.

JASON: If one thing is certain, Trinacria is the epicenter of garlic. Every bodily function following a meal there is going to arrive with a garlic twist.

JAKE: You have crossed the line.

I also ate my way into a garlic-scented fog, devouring several courses prepared by a kitchen more Italian than a hundred Olive Garden kitchens stacked on top of each other. The pancetta and caramelized onion pasta is fantastic. An order of penne norma brings some of the best eggplant I’ve ever tasted, rolled around pecorino and fresh basil, and served in a good pomodoro sauce that anyone’s Italian grandfather would be proud of.

JASON: The simple dish of noodles with a butter garlic sauce reared its head for 48 hours after we dined. The dish was simple and fabulous, and lived in infamy the rest of the weekend.

JAKE: Speaking of butter, the gnocchi — heavenly potato dumpling nubs  swimming in butter and Parmigiano Reggiano — gave “melt in your mouth” new meaning.

JASON: As mentioned, Trinacria serves one meat dish on their regular menu — the spaghetti ragu. This is no Chef Boyardee. The ragu is stellar. A combination of fresh tomato, spices and finely chopped ground beef, the dish moves into my pantheon of spaghetti dinners — and that’s saying a lot because few places can actually deliver decent spaghetti.

JAKE: The wine list is as tiny as the gnocchi, but decent. Bottles are priced under $35.

JASON: I like how the salad, a simple plate of greens with tangy Italian dressing, arrives after the meal. It’s like giving the mouth a soothing bath after chowing through the spice. Refreshed, it’s possible to consider the dessert menu without feeling like a nap first.

JAKE: Cannolo, a rolled pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese, and a tiramisu heavy on coffee flavor, both satisfy the sweet tooth but are not worth breaking a diet. If I had my choice, dessert would be in liquid form next door.

Trinacria Ristorante Italiano

Where: 113 Capitol Way N., Olympia, 360.352.8892

When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Scene: A little like something from a “Godfather” movie — small, intimate, definitely Sicilian.  Service is sporadic at best.

Menu: The flavors are robust, whole and intense.  Nothing is left to the imagination — it’s a full frontal assault on the taste buds, but in a good way.

Drinkies: A small but decent wine and beer list.

Damage: Delightfully affordable.  Cash and checks only.

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