Germany, Italy, Bellevue: Danube Bistro combines culture, cuisine
When Nancy Montalvo and Lubos Szabo met, they were both waiting tables and saving money, but they didn’t know for what.
But after their Vegas wedding, the two immigrants – Montalvo is from Peru and Szabo is from Slovakia – decided it was time to start something of their own.
Setup across the street from Bellevue’s downtown library, Danube Bistro has been serving a mixture of German and Italian food for five years.
“This restaurant is a dream,” Montalvo said, looking across its large shady patio to a water fountain.
The name comes from Szabo’s days as a boy swimming in the river of the same name. The food was inspired by their belief that there was a niche in German cuisine.
While combining the two cultures might seem unusual on this side of the Atlantic, Northern Italy is known for its Bavarian cuisine – apple strudel, dumplings and sausage. So they added something familiar to their niche, Italian.
Try the hand-filled mushroom ravioli and fish piccata, which is covered in a lemon butter sauce and topped with capers. The spaghetti carbonara ($15.75), spaghetti mixed with egg yolks, crispy bacon and cream, is rich. However, unlike other variations, finishing it doesn’t feel like you’ve been punched in the gut.
Try the carbonara with the spinach salad ($7.50). Warm and sweet purple onions melt with the mushrooms, bacon and sheep cheese. The toppings are then brightened by a red wine vinaigrette.
For those accustomed to American cuisine, the experiences can be found in German fair.
Say “Wiener Schnitzel” ($24.75) without too much giggling, and you’ll receive tender veal beat thin, fried in a fine breading and garnished with lemons, meant to be squeezed dry over the dish.
The Chicken Patrikash ($19.50), which is really more Hungarian, is salty. The creamy dish is lightly seasoned with paprika, and filled with tender strips of chicken. Forgo the rice and order it with a side of “dumplings,” which would be better named Spaetzle. The tender noodle is made by dropping little bits of batter into boiling water.
For those in the mood to leave stuffed, start with garlic potato pancakes ($5.50). The dense cakes are crispy on the edges and topped with sour cream and cherry peppers.
The not-too-sweet apple strudel would be a traditional way to end a German meal. Be forewarned, it’s loaded with raisins. It comes with a scoop of ice cream if you’re American; if you’re European, they change it to whipped cream. (A European himself, Szabo insists strudel shouldn’t be served with ice cream.)
Danube’s patio is one of the best in Bellevue. Try to grab a table on one of the last warm nights and sip away the evening with an Italian wine or a German beer.