I'm not sure what's harder: Getting a reservation at West Seattle's highly sought-after new Italian spot Il Nido or getting 10 minutes with the man behind it. Chef and owner Mike Easton is an understandably busy guy. Il Corvo, his weekday lunch-hour-only Pioneer Square restaurant, has gained a cultlike following, with hordes of people waiting in a line that usually stretches around the block to nab a bowl of one of the two daily rotating hand-rolled pastas. I wasn't surprised his latest venture has been booked solid since opening in May. But apparently Easton was. "We expected things to be busy, but not like this," he said during our interview as he put the first layer of the night's tiramisu into the oven.
Easton has been wanting to get another project started for a while. "Il Corvo has taken a lot of work," he said. "We're eight years in, and things are running really smoothly, mostly thanks to my wife [Victoria]. She's an integral part in running that restaurant. And I've become less necessary in the day-to-day." His downtime at Il Corvo eventually led to the fruition of Il Nido.
Whereas Il Corvo accommodates a few, Il Nido seats 64 in the bright, airy dining room of the newly renovated Alki Homestead, which has been a long-standing West Seattle landmark since 1904. The log cabin that survived a 2009 fire now reeks of rustic charm and has been given fresh life housing the hottest new restaurant in town.
With Raccolto and La Rustica nearby, I wasn't convinced the area needed another Italian restaurant. But as Easton pointed out, "West Seattle has a very loyal customer base where everyone has their favorites, so we knew we would not be taking any business away from them." He added, "We're giving Il Corvo fans a place where they can enjoy a nice dinner."
The extensive wine list is what you'd expect to find on an elevated Italian menu, heavily influenced by Tuscany, with Spanish, French, and local labels sprinkled in. But cocktails like the Spanish Gin and Tonic with a generous pour of Malfy grapefruit gin proved refreshing, and the signature Nudo Famoso is an intriguing mescal-based drink with yellow chartreuse, lime, and Aperol.
We started with the burrata and 24-month-aged prosciutto di parma antipasti plus a giant side of house-baked castelvetrano focaccia. The burrata was so fresh and creamy, the salty prosciutto sliced perfectly thin and piled high, the bread fluffy and divine. But let's be real—you're reading this for the pasta. And I'm here to confirm it lived up to the hype.
The ricotta cavatieddi pomodoro is a must, a Roman-style pasta tossed in a simple no-fuss sauce of tomato, basil, and garlic topped with generous shreds of Parmesan. I'm also still drooling over the busiate ragú alla toscano, its thick hand-rolled tubes of pasta swimming in a hearty meat sauce made with sausage and prosciutto. The fazzoletti (a handkerchief-like pasta) with morel mushrooms and a runny egg yolk also looked heavenly, with thin cascading sheets of pasta delicately layered across the plate.
Although hard-pressed to indicate his own favorite dish, Easton is loving the whey-braised rabbit leg with roasted carrots right now. Proteins like whole grilled trout with pickled rhubarb, house-cured lavender smoked sausage with cannellini beans and mushrooms, and wood-grilled saddle of lamb with apricot, endive, and salsa verde are also featured, but of course, these items—along with everything else on the menu—will fluctuate seasonally.
Easton is also proud of Il Nido's steak program, with cuts tailored to his restaurant's specific needs. "We are working with a pretty new distributor," he said. "They hand-select the cows, only doing a handful a week that are dry-aged. They really care about the animals, and value quality and the restaurants they cater to."
After we finished our meal, my husband, staring at his plate, half-jokingly asked, "If I lick the rest of this off, are you going to write about it?" At the end of the day, this is the perfect assessment of the thoughtful dishes you'll find at Il Nido. Ones worth making a month-or-more-in-advance reservation for, ones so good you can't bear to leave a fleck of Parm or drop of sauce behind—they're just that fucking good.