Contadino and its sibling pizzeria begin new story on 19th Ave E

After “a thoughtful but speedy remodel,” a classic Capitol Hill restaurant space is ready to go back into motion. Contadino and its sibling pizzeria make their 19th Ave E debut Monday night:

Contadino is an intimate room that offers seating for 45 in an understated space defined by simple lines and shades of gray and white. A banquette runs along the north wall with marble table tops and black bentwood chairs adding a bistro vibe. The open kitchen has a bar height four-person chef’s counter, where diners can enjoy a $70/person tasting menu, plus a full bar with seating for 12. There is also a semi-private dining area for up to eight guests.

The menu begins with small dishes like lamb carpaccio with crème fraîche, arugula, and Parmesan, octopus with white beans, turnips, and herb salad, chicken liver mousse with crostini and pickled mustard seeds, and tomato soup with bread and basil. House-made pastas will include cavatelli with bolognese, mint, and pecorino, bucatini with nettles and chanterelle mushrooms, and paccheri with rabbit, porcini, and Parmesan. There are also a small handful of protein options like braised lamb shank with barley and chard and black cod with mushrooms, cream, and lemon zest.

The beverage program is approachable and focuses on Italian and NW wines, plus a simple cocktail menu and small selection of bottled beers.
Pizzeria Contadino is decked out with dark wood, large pendant lights, copper tables tops, and cozy booths offering seating for 40, plus 10 bar stools.

A smattering of starters and a menu of stellar pies—there are six set pizzas plus a daily special—are perfect for a quick dinner with the kids, or a gathering with friends.

The menu include bites like bitter greens with lemon and parmesan, house-stretched mozzarella with pesto and arugula, meatballs with tomato and chili flakes, and seared albacore tuna with white beans, currants, and celery. As for pizza, there are options like Calabrian sausage with escarole and mozzarella, wild mushrooms with Talleggio and thyme, and mozzarella with tomato and basil. Diners can add on items like olive, anchovy, rapini, and pork sausage.

The pizzeria has eight beers and ciders on tap, plus a smattering of bottles and cans. The wines are a thoughtful selection of Italian and NW offerings, and there is also a full bar.

CHS reported last month on the project from Madrona chef/owner Brian Clevenger to take over the restaurant overhauled for what turned out to be a short, one-year run for Ernest Loves Agnes to transform the business into a venue with greater appeal for its northeastern Capitol Hill neighbors. “The neighborhood is really really important to me,” Clevenger told CHS in January. “A neighborhood restaurant, 80% of their business is done by 20% of their guests.”

The 19th and Mercer restaurant space underwent a significant and much needed overhaul after the Coaston sisters closed Kingfish in January 2015. The partnership behind Lost Lake, the Comet, and Big Mario’s debuted Ernest Loves Agnes that September.

Jason LaJeunesse is remaining as a partner in the new project with Clevenger and Kayley Turkheimer. Chef Nelson Whitmore, most recently at Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco, will helm the Contadino kitchen.

Screen Shot 2017-02-27 at 12.00.52 PMUPDATE: As noted in comments below, Contadino is one of a growing number of Seattle restaurants recently adding a 5% service charge “due to changes in WA state labor laws.” Advocates for raising the minimum wage say these kinds of charges are de facto statements of protest. “Rather than just raising prices naturally, these restaurant managers are making an overtly political statement when they add minimum wage surcharges to their menus,” the pro-labor advocates at Civic Skunk Works write. We’ve asked the folks at Contadino to address the issue. UPDATE x2: Here is a report on our discussion with Clevenger about the fee: Why Capitol Hill’s newest restaurant — and plenty of others — are adding service charges

A peek inside reveals mostly surface changes from the space’s previous run. To the left, you’ll find the seasonal pasta restaurant, to the right where Kingfish and ELA’s bar still stands, is the pizzeria side of the operation.

Both sides are open daily from 5 to 10 PM with a happy hour from 5 to 6. You can learn more at contadinoseattle.com.

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21 thoughts on “Contadino and its sibling pizzeria begin new story on 19th Ave E

  1. Oddly enough, the menu on their website doesn’t have any mention of the 5% labor surcharge (“due to recent law changes”) they show on the menu in their window.

    • What bugs me more about it is that it calls out recent changes, when the changes have been in place before they decided to open up the restaurant.

    • I’m a dishwasher here in Seattle. Looks like their referencing the changes in WA labor laws that mandate staff who do not ever come into contact with customers (like me) can’t get a cut of tips. They probably use that 5% to divide among back of house employees.. just my take on it.

  2. I’ve seen small surcharges at other places too, such as The Saint (4% charge) and Kickin’ Boot in Ballard (3%?). These are stupid and greedy. Raise prices by $1 or impose a mandatory 20% service charge.

    • Agreed, these changes are JUST PART OF THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS IN WA.

      It’s a business cost, period.

      These owners need to stop agitating for some sort of pervious system where they could pay their staff nothing, and acclimate to the present business environment.

      Adjust your pricing accordingly, and stop this passive aggressive complaining on your menu.

    • Yeah, this is ridiculous and petty. The cost of doing business is *built into the price of everything in the menu*. If you’re going to do that, go all the way with it, like:

      Braised Lamb Shank $5
      ($33 total with 660% facilities & administration charge)

      THAT would be honesty in pricing. The current charges are just anti-labor whining.

  3. Ate at the pasta and dinner side last night and the food was interesting and delicious. Great addition to the neighborhood. That said, incorporate labor costs into the menu prices and let me tip generously in recognition of the excellent service without feeling backdoored.

  4. I work in the restaurant industry and I don’t view this notice of surcharge as being “greedy” or “political” – just necessary and informative.

    I do, however, feel that restaurants should be consistent city-wide with their surcharges and service fees. 5% surcharge here, 20% service fee there – tip included, tip not incleded…. it’s confusing for some patrons!

    • I agree. The variety of surcharges IS confusing, as well as increased menu prices at some places. I don’t think an owner should be allowed to increase prices AND institute a surcharge and/or encourage an old-fashioned 15-20% tip.

      If I’m required to pay a 5% surcharge, then my tip will be reduced by that amount. And if there is a 20% service fee, no tip at all needed!

  5. That surcharge does not indicate if it is a tip above and beyond the minimum wage, or if it is to cover the cost of the salary increase. If the former, fine. Otherwise, just raise your prices!

  6. I remember this restaurant/menu from the first time when it was Ernest Loves Agnes.

    I get there is a different chef. Hope there is a new staff. The last place didn’t make it because service was an abortion and the food was just meh.

    • I feel the same way. I loved Ernest Loves Agnes when it first opened, but the service and consistency plummeted. They then added a 20% service charge to serve me food no better than I could make at home.

      Anyway, I hope Contadino is more transparent with this 5% service charge. I’d rather make an informed decision about my tip amount knowing whether the staff is paid a competitive wage (vs. charging a service fee in protest of having to pay a living wage).

  7. “…transform the business into a venue with greater appeal for its northeastern Capitol Hill neighbors.”

    So let me get this straight…they’ve changed the art on the walls, got a new chef and gave the space a less pretentious name but are still serving up the same, lame concept? And that is more appealing how?

    Overpriced, mediocre Italian food is the last thing this neighborhood — and all of Seattle for that matter — needs.

  8. Honestly, I didn’t even pay attention to the bill. Service charges, tips and taxes… it’s just part of eating out. What matters is service, food quality, atmosphere and the overall experience. I was so underwhelmed by the service, food, and being forgotten in the front window. My drink was forgotten, we had to ask for several things, and service was somewhat slow and my final unforgiving, 2-thumbs down occurred when our appetizer and entrées all came out at together, which is a giant pet peeve and faux pas in food service. In this silly city of constant ebb & flow with restaurants, I don’t expect this one to last much longer either. It’s not much different than Ernest loves Agnes and nothing impressive enough to lure me back. The neighborhood may support it, likely because they only have roughly three options.

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