I have discovered two long-lost sisters: Cantinetta in Wallingford and Epulo Bistro in Edmonds. They dress the same, talk the same, look nearly identical.
I happen to know Epulo even considered buying the same lamps hanging above the Cantinetta bar.
I have a confession, however. I have a wild favorite! It is okay to have a favorite between twins, right? A darling? One that tugs your heart and one that leaves your heart a bit ... still?
I went to Cantinetta for the first time last night. I know, I know, I'm a year behind the curve.
It was everything I wanted and expected. A warm ambiance, approachable wine selections, Italian influence oozing from its cheese selections, and a choice of espresso or limoncello to finish the meal.
Last week I went (for the ump-teenth time) to Epulo Bistro, where I experienced very similar cuisine, a bit more liberal pours of Italian wine, and a nearly identical atmosphere.
At BOTH Cantinetta & Epulo I:
- Ordered Roasted Cauliflower. Both topped with Grana Padano.
- I drank dirty Italian wines.
- I sat under nearly identical decor, from the rustic flooring to dark wood. The candles burn the same flame. They're both a bit too loud.
- I visited their websites, which look similar.
- I even sat by some of the same diners at both restaurants.
However, there's a genuine hospitality at Epulo Bistro that can't be mimicked or improved upon, even with all-organic ingredients. It's a sense of friendship when you walk in the door, as the owner comes up to you and asks if he can make you comfortable. It's an inborn sense of true warmth and welcome that comes from a pure heart that actually, truly enjoys another's companionship. Cantinetta looked a bit put out when we asked them to fix our table, which was rocking like a boat during a monsoon.
Epulo Bistro moved tables out of the way when we wanted to make part of the dining room our dance floor.