I'd passed Da Pino near the corner of Genesee and Rainier for nearly 2 years before registering that it was actually a restaurant I might be interested in visiting.... the location is definitely lackluster and the building is not obviously enticing.
But today I went and was really glad that I did.
The restaurant is tiny, but just large enough to sit down and not feel like you are in the way. Upon entering you are greeted with a case of curing meats, and a beverage fridge with both Italian and American soft drinks. The Italian owner was there working in the back, and his handsome and friendly sons were working out front.
I was the only vegetarian out with 4 meat eaters, so we managed a pretty comprehensive tasting of Da Pino's small menu. We had a caprese salad and a really impressive plate of house-made salumi for starters. My enjoyment of this phase was mostly vicarious... in a generous and beautiful arrangement were cooked copa, regular copa, wine salami, prosciutto, some exquisite smoked mozzarella, and roasted almonds (I ate the latter two...) and probably more that I am forgetting now. There were sounds of immense appreciation from the rest of the table, which included at least one serious salumi/charcuterie buff and many hobbiests.
For the main course, I had the hot vegetable sandwich, which was pretty good aside from the fact that the main vegetable was eggplant, which I have a bit of an aversion to. In addition to the eggplant there was roasted zucchini and smoked peppers, and it was all quite good almost to the point that i was able to excuse the eggplant. I think that if somebody liked eggplant, they would be really happy with this sandwich.
Two other folks at the table had hot sandwiches, one a meatball, and one with sausage (again, both house made), and the reports were excellent.
The other two had daily pasta specials... one of which was housemade mushroom ravioli in a gorgonzola cream sauce, which was savory and decadent and tempting some even when full and satisfied with their own meal. The other ordered penne in a rich spicy olive oily tomato sauce with pancetta. I shared a couple of pancetta-less bites of that and it was my favorite item ordered today.
This restaurant falls outside of the trendy part of Columbia city, but is realistically just moments from it. It is totally worth venturing over (there is an adjoining gravel parking lot) for some really good food. You can also buy the housemade salami/sausages/cheese to take home, and the owner supplies these meats to many other Seattle restaurants.
I got the feeling that this place might be struggling a little bit due to it's location... it has the sort of honest, delicious, soul warming food at reasonable prices that should have lines out the doors.
So go check it out! Notice it next time you drive by, and stop in.
It is currently only open for lunch (11am-2pm).