The next stories for the old Kingfish Cafe space on 19th Ave E will include two intertwined tales from chef/owner Brian Clevenger. Clevenger, who opened Vendemmia in Madrona in 2015, will transform the shuttering Ernest Love Agnes into Contadino Restaurant on one side and Contadino Pizzeria on the other:
Brian Clevenger, chef owner of Vendemmia and Raccolto, and his partner Kayley Turkheimer are excited to announce that they will be opening two new concepts in the storied space that long housed The Kingfish Cafe, and was more recently home to Ernest Loves Agnes—a project from Jason LaJeunesse, who will stay on as a partner in the new spots.
After a swift remodel, Clevenger will open Contadino Restaurant at 602 19th Avenue East and Contadino Pizzeria in the adjoining space at 600 19th Avenue East.
The restaurant will have a full bar with seating for 12, plus seating in the intimate dining room at tables and a banquette for 45. There will also be a four-person chef’s counter where diners can enjoy a $70/person tasting menu. Clevenger’s menu will focus on the handmade pastas, vegetables, and simple seafood dishes that he’s known for at his other restaurants.
Expanding to the new neighborhood wasn’t necessarily in the Vendemmia restaurant family plans. “I have always loved this area,” Clevenger tells CHS about his arrival on Capitol Hill. “Once the opportunity came, I couldn’t turn it away.”
Clevenger thinks his work with customers in Vendemmia’s Madrona neighborhood will help his new venture succeed on 19th Ave E. “The neighborhood is really really important to me,” Clevenger said. “A neighborhood restaurant, 80% of their business is done by 20% of their guests.”
Ernest Loves Agnes was slated to served its final meals Tuesday night after a one year and change run and an expensive upgrade of the longtime home of the legendary soul food restaurant. The restaurant 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 successfully won any bidding for the lease and Ernest Loves Agnes debuted that September. Jason LaJeunesse is remaining as a partner in the new project with Clevenger and Kayley Turkheimer.
The Vendemmia crew has been in expansion mode. In 2016, fresh fish-focused sibling Raccolto opened in West Seattle. “It may sound a little strange (but … some) chefs cook food they think other chefs would like to eat. It’s easy to fall into a fad,” Clevenger said about his philosophy in light of the new West Seattle project. “We are the furthest away from a fad that’s possible. Something that never goes out of style – good food at approachable prices. That’s what we pride ourselves on.”
According to the announcement, the Contadino menu “will begin with small dishes like lamb carpaccio with Parmesan, radish, and arugula, charred octopus with white bean purée and dandelion greens, and roasted delicata squash with hazelnuts and crème fraiche,” pastas like “tonarelli with black pepper and pecorino as well as pastas with a bit more of a Northwest touch, like spaghetti with Dungeness crab, celery, and chive, or strozzapreti with braised rabbit,”and “a small handful of protein options, like a roasted half chicken with braised escarole and dates or local cod with clams, chickpeas, chorizo, and tomato.”
On the pizzeria side, you will find “a smattering of sides” and a menu of eight pizzas plus a daily special.
Nelson Whitmore, new to Seattle from Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco, will helm the kitchen in both spaces.
Clevenger is hoping for a February opening if the transition goes smoothly. He says the new project is the first of his restaurants that will be taking over a finished space.
Both sides of the new project will be open daily from 5 PM to 10 PM. You can (soon!) learn more at contadinoseattle.com.