CHS talked with chef Robert Abergel who owned Esmeralda and operated it with his son. He also was the man behind Topolino’s Pizza and Burrito Express that also took a swing at winning a place in Cap Hill tummies at the same 12th Ave location. Abergel said he has sold the restaurant business — equipment and lease — to a group planning to open a Chinese restaurant at the 12th Ave location. The 40-year veteran said his experience running a restaurant on Capitol Hill for the last five years was generally positive but also challenging.
“It’s a hard area to work because it’s a very transient crowd,” Abergel said. “People are here for short time and then they go. When more than half the people move away, nobody becomes a regular.”
Still, Abergel said, he would have preferred to have kept Esmeralda. “I’m selling it half-heartedly,” he said. “But with my knees and my son going to school, what are you going to do?”
Instead, Abergel will now focus his energy on the Topolino’s Pizza restaurant he still owns in Bellevue and a takeout concept he is starting called Squared Meal.
“Thank you for the patronage,” Abergel said when asked if there’s anything he’d like to tell Capitol Hill as he closes shop. “I’d like them to patronize these new people. The only food I eat out is oriental. There is an art to it and this woman is very, very talented.”
It was only last September when 12th Ave ‘Mediterranean Euro fusion bistro’ Esmeralda first set its neon sign ablaze.
Slog says that pink beacon is extinguished tonight — ‘one meat + 2 sides’ will be replaced by, according to the sign the Slog saw posted in the window at 12th and Denny, ‘GREAT CHINESE FOOD COMING SOON!!’
As for Esmeralda, never went inside after the reinvention of the restaurant space in the neon bistro style and the pizza CHS experienced at the old incarnation (same owners, we believe) was best described as regrettable. Maybe it was a bad night. Urbanspooners liked Esmeralda well enough, though, and the restaurant’s operator has apparently been in the business a long time. Worth a CHS follow-up — only regret is that we’re coming to the story with time only for an epilogue.