Food & Drink

Little Things

The Transformation of a Capitol Hill Gem

Little Things

Kelly O

THOSE ARE GYMNASIUM LIGHTS A cozy, low-ceilinged, not-trying-too-hard place.

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A LITTLE THING Pumpkin pie with brulee marshmallow.
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OWNERS Miki and Yuki Sodos.

"H oly cow!" the man said. He'd just walked into the new back room of Pettirosso on Capitol Hill. It was obviously the first time he'd been in since the place reopened, and he marveled for good reason. Where before, if memory serves, a small hallway with some tables crammed in ended unceremoniously at a table topped with a tub full of dirty dishes, there is now a perfectly lovely dining room. It's low-ceilinged and cozy, pretty without looking like it's trying too hard—a true triumph in this era of overdesigned restaurants-as-"concepts." Highlights of the simple decor: a big old metal freight elevator door (original); a huge mirror; light fixtures protected by cages, originally intended for gymnasium use; and a set of carved double doors rumored to have come from one of Victor Rosellini's legendary restaurants. Three framed photographs from the city archives show that Pettirosso's building used to be an auto parts store called Nagle's, that the building on the corner now selling schmancy home accoutrements used to sell Aladdin Trailer Homes, and that the site of the Wildrose used to offer haircuts for 25 cents.

The guy who exclaimed "Holy cow!" appeared to be coming in for dinner with his mother, which is the kind of ordinary, sweet thing you'll see at Pettirosso every time you're there. Another night, a woman on a date unselfconsciously wore a halo of big red hearts made out of felt tied around her head with a ribbon. At holiday time, if you got the table in one corner, you had an old-timey radiator warming your back and, in front of you, the sight and smell of a big, noble, twinkling Christmas tree. The bar is also an extra pleasant place to be, with decent wine at low prices and some of the thoughtful cocktails costing only $7—which makes you feel like Pettirosso really wants you to enjoy the neighborhood, more so than putting another dollar or two in their pockets.

Who is the "they" behind the new version of Pettirosso? They are Miki and Yuki Sodos, the nearly unbelievably nice sisters who run Bang Bang Cafe in Belltown (which everyone says is great, and also reportedly serves one of the only defensible breakfast burritos around—alas, no such thing on the Pettirosso menu. Yet!). Yuki used to work at Pettirosso in its former life as a tiny cafe. The baker who fills the front case with gorgeous tarts and éclairs and more is Eric Todd, who, it turns out, worked with Yuki at B&O Espresso years ago. And getting the kitchen up and running is Nick Castleberry, who started out at Sitka & Spruce, was the chef at Artemis when it was good (and extant), and then, for a while, cooked a superlative version of pub grub at the Summit Tavern.

Castleberry believes in making good, simple food with good, simple ingredients, an approach that is exactly right for Pettirosso. The daytime menu has bagels (on the squishy side), "little things" (brûléed grapefruit, house-made yogurt), breakfast plates, and sandwiches. In the latter category, there's a fine grilled cheese (Essential Baking Company bread, Havarti, and Beecher's Flagship, $6.95), and the beef brisket—on a demi-baguette with pesto and grilled onions and Mama Lil's peppers—is spicy and tender and messy and great (and worth the $9.75, which includes a bag of Tim's chips).

Eveningtime brings a menu that includes the sandwiches, soup (good chicken noodle, though one night the noodles were disintegrating), a salad (like fresh and well-dressed mixed greens with a trifecta of goodies: Rogue blue cheese, Marcona almonds, and roasted beets), and a handful of entrées. The bollito misto ($17)—an Italian stew—was a big bowl of beefy, oily, yummy broth stuffed full of Painted Hills brisket, a Draper Valley chicken leg, Cascioppo Brothers sausage, potatoes, and carrots, with a citrusy-tart cranberry mostarda on the side for a blast of extra flavor. "It makes me happy that it's so cold out," the person who ordered it said (and this person had just been complaining about exactly that). A chicken breast ($16) with the leg still attached was fatly full of chickeny flavor, with visible twigs of thyme on the crispy skin; it rested on a snowdrift's worth of mashed potatoes, properly salted and creamy but still luxuriously thick. Whole cloves of roasted garlic plus garlic slices were scattered about, and the thyme pan jus drizzled around it all was exactly what you wanted, like gravy but lighter and more refined. Also on the menu recently: shepherd's pie ($12) with a cheesy-crisped potato top, another great dish for just before lying down for a long winter's nap, and a soba noodle bowl ($12) that tasted strongly of ginger and not much else.

In its old incarnation, Pettirosso's only problem (that I ever heard about, and it's located one block away from The Stranger's offices) was that they were too nice, meaning they'd talk and talk when you were at the counter, and then your order sometimes took forever. The service at Pettirosso now is nice in a way that could hardly be better: They read you like a book, remember you (and what you drank) from last time, make you feel right at home, know when to check on you and when to leave you alone. Pettirosso was a neighborhood gem before, and as Pike/Pine gets more theme-park-like by the moment, it's now even more so: with more room, and more choices, and a feeling of real happiness to have you, happiness to be there. recommended

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Comments (10) RSS

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So, the real message here is if you open a restaurant a block away from the offices of the Stranger, and recognize the staff, you will get a great review from Ms. Clement. Noted!
Posted by ritzidean on January 9, 2013 at 11:36 AM · Report this
No, the message is that this place is awesome. 'Cause it is.
Posted by defman23 on January 9, 2013 at 2:50 PM · Report this
@#1 Go in there and see for yourself. The place has a great atmosphere, truly delicious food and the staff is very helpful and totally friendly. It's aisle my favorite new place in a long time on Capitol Hill and I've lived up here for a very long time. Don't be smarmy and cynical without actually checking it out.
Posted by Silky Pete on January 9, 2013 at 2:58 PM · Report this
Grant Brissey, Emeritus 4
Posted by Grant Brissey, Emeritus on January 9, 2013 at 7:01 PM · Report this
In a crowd of annoyingly loud bars on that block this is a super classy and casual place for people who actually live in the neighborhood to go get a drink. I love it.
Posted by Alicia1000 on January 9, 2013 at 7:38 PM · Report this
So, the real message here is if you open a restaurant a block away from the offices of the Stranger, make abs sell good food and drinks, you will get a great review from Ms. Clement. ritzidean, you are an idiot. Noted!
Posted by Sweetbabydon on January 11, 2013 at 11:24 AM · Report this
ingopixel 7
There are truly no proprietors or even humans on earth friendlier than Miki and Yuki. Yuki will come out from behind the bar to give you a HUG just because she's happy to see you. People, this is so rare and lovely.

I used to work a block from Bang Bang and can attest that their breakfast burrito was the only thing that could cure my hangovers. I would be THRILLED if I could get one on the hill. As it is, Petti Rosso's bagel sandwiches will handily suffice.
Posted by ingopixel on January 14, 2013 at 11:18 AM · Report this
Pettirosso is/was awesome. It is the Joe Bar of Pike/Pine (only now with booze!) in it's laid-back friendliness. I go here nearly every day.

I like the fact that you can have long conversations with the staff at Pettirosso. If you don't like that sort of thing or don't have time for the almost European eating and drinking time-scales - go somewhere else.

So don't fuck this up for us and turn it into another loud and annoying crust-infested Linda's or Mario's where the beleaguered staff has high turn over and have to be shit heads just to survive the onslaught.
Posted by tkc on January 14, 2013 at 11:27 AM · Report this
Wow. I used to go there almost every day in 2001/2002 when I worked in the 1201 E Pike building.
It's amazing to see the transformation this has made.
Posted by CommonKnowledge on January 14, 2013 at 1:19 PM · Report this
Anna Anna Anna 10
This spot is one of my favs.
Posted by Anna Anna Anna on January 14, 2013 at 5:47 PM · Report this

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