INTERMEZZO CARMINE Cream-colored upholstery, 90210 chic.
  • Kelly O
  • INTERMEZZO CARMINE Cream-colored upholstery, 90210 chic.

In the photo on the wall of brand-new Intermezzo Carmine, Carmine Smeraldo is young and handsome in his white Sheraton Hotel uniform. He's a little blurry—the photo's been blown up to larger than life, which, by all accounts, he himself was, though he stood only five feet five. He grew up in Naples and got a second-grade education, then immigrated to Canada where he scrubbed toilets at a hotel, eventually coming to Seattle and working his way up to open Il Terrazzo Carmine in Pioneer Square in 1984. Il Terrazzo became a bastion of Italian fine dining, and Smeraldo became a Seattle restaurant legend. His 2012 Seattle Times obituary notes that he often greeted customers with a hug, but took the quality of his hospitality extremely seriously; his wife, Maria, said his management style was that of a "brutal, benevolent dictator." The photo of him inside Il Terrazzo Carmine—older and more in focus, still watching over the host stand 30 years later—bears a plaque that just says "Boss."

Smeraldo's wife and two sons run Il Terrazzo now, and opened its sister location, Intermezzo, in June. Chef Juan Vega, who started working for Smeraldo in 1994, is in charge of both kitchens. The original restaurant, hidden in the back of the building behind imposing wood doors, is as expensive as any in town, with entrées running from $26 to $45. Intermezzo, which faces First Avenue with windows that open all across the front, serves craft cocktails and $8 to $20 small plates. "We see it as a portal," Carmine's son CJ Smeraldo said of Intermezzo when it opened, "one that will open our brand up to the next generation of Seattle diners."

If Intermezzo Carmine is a portal to a brand, you might call that brand Beverly Hills chic...