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.
UPDATE: 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.