We motorcyclists love to eat: no surprise there, of course. The roads are likewise lined with diners and fast-food joints eager to accommodate us. But what if we want something more sophisticated than biscuits and gravy or pie and coffee? Many restaurateurs turn their noses up and their thumbs down when a bunch of bikers darkens their door. Not so at Café Veloce in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, Wash. Beyond welcoming bikers, owner Liz Caluori will take money off your bill if you turn up on two wheels.
"Motorcyclists are our best customers," Caluori says. "They can bring in their helmets and leathers — and they get a 10 percent discount if they ride here."
Café Veloce's decor evokes the golden age of European racing: Huge wall posters feature scenes from the great Italian road competitions — Mille Miglia, Milano-Taranto, Giro d'Italia — and display cases are filled with memorabilia. Period race bikes — Ducati, Motobi, Capriolo — fill the alcoves and hang from the ceiling.
During a recent visit, a square-case Ducati café racer sat right inside the door. And the tablecloths? Checkered black and white, of course!
Not surprisingly, the menu also reflects the Italian theme with gourmet pizza and pasta dishes as well as classic Italian entrées. And to wash it down, what better than a cappuccino or espresso? This is Seattle, after all!
Café Veloce can seat up to 120 people, but even that can be tight at times. "One group of Gold Wing riders — all 300 of them — turned up together," Caluori says. "Fortunately, the steak house next door was open, too."
Finally, when asked she rode, Caluori gave a stunning answer.
"I don't ride, myself," she says, "though many of my regulars are motorcycle instructors and are encouraging me to give it a try. To be honest, I'm a little intimidated by motorcycles."
In the future, Caluori hopes to take Café Veloce on the road, bringing her unique blend of beautiful bikes and tasty bites to local motorcycle events. Avanti! MC
Where: Café Veloce, 12514 120th Ave. NE in Kirkland, Wash. Take exit 20B from Interstate 405 and follow the Totem Lake Boulevard signs. (425) 814-2972.
When: From 11 a.m. Monday to Friday and 4 p.m. weekends. Café Veloce will open for lunch on the weekend for parties of 40 or more.
Why: Great food and like-minded people in a motorcycle ambiance.
Scenic routes: There's great riding in the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie valleys in the Cascade foothills to the east of Kirkland. If you're on I-90 coming west, take the Preston exit and ride Route 202 through Fall City to Redmond.
Best kept secrets: Woods Creek Road and Burn Road from Monroe to Arlington via Granite Falls: a real rollercoaster.
Avoid: I-5 through Seattle, and either of the bridges over Lake Washington (Route 520 and I-90) during rush hours. On the plus side, Seattle's freeways have 24/7 HOV lanes. But don't lane split: it's illegal in Washington.