Wednesday, January 17, 2007 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Taste of the Town

Sorrentino: Mamma gets her due

Seattle Times restaurant critic

Nancy Leson on KPLU

Seattle Times restaurant critic Nancy Leson's commentaries on food and restaurants air Wednesdays on KPLU-FM (88.5) at 5:30 a.m., 7:30 a.m.and 4:44 p.m., and on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. (This week she talks about cooking on a snow day.)

Leson's commentaries are archived on KPLU's Web site, and may also be heard at

When you've got sons and daughters working in ristorantes all over town, what's a mamma to do? Well, in the case of Enza Sorrentino, the answer is to finally put your name — and your very personal imprint — on a place of your own.

Sorrentino Trattoria & Pizzeria (2128 Queen Anne Ave. N., Seattle; 206-694-0055) opened just before Christmas, after Enza and her son and business partner, Fabio Bonjrada, took over the spot formerly known as Lumette, closed since late November.

If you've eaten at La Vita é Bella (in Belltown), Mondello (in Magnolia) or recently ordered lasagna at Via Tribunali (on Capitol Hill, soon to open a second outpost on Queen Anne), you may have sampled Enza's pastas. And if you show up at her Queen Anne Hill trattoria and see her son Fabio running the joint, chances are his will be a familiar face.

Fabio's such a sweetheart, I'm not likely to forget that he's served me pasta e vino at La Vita é Bella and at Mondello, co-owned by his brother, Corino. I've also noted his professional presence at Capitol Hill's Osteria La Spiga (back before it moved from the Harvard Market to 12th and Pike). And let it be said that while big brother Corino now spends much time at his new Ballard wine bar, DiVino, it's still a family affair over at Mondello, where Enza's son Alessandro and daughter Sofana help out.

Speaking of helping out, Fabio's cheerful, multilingual Ukrainian girlfriend, Marina, is now doing what she does best at Sorrentino, lending her sunny serving style to the extended family business while offering up pizza, pasta and mamma's regional Italian specialties. And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that while dining recently at Coupage — the fabulous new French-Korean restaurant in Madrona — my elegant, soft-spoken and entirely too charming waiter was (who knew?) Fabio's Algerian half-brother, Mehdi.

Sorrentino's is open for lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays and for dinner 5-10 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays-Thursdays and till 11 Fridays-Saturdays (closed Monday).

Slooooow food movement

It's been a year since I first got wind of Ethan Stowell's plans to open Tavolata (2323 Second Ave., Seattle), his rustic Italian restaurant that's way overdue for its Belltown debut. The original ETA (September) has come and gone. But since so many of you have been asking "What's up, already?" with the snail's pace we've had to endure before the much-anticipated event, here's an update:

"It's been 10 times harder with this project than with Union," says Stowell.

Blame the plumber. And seismic problems. And the permitting process. And the weather. Which is to say, this is just another typical slow-go for a new restaurant that isn't a turnkey operation.

"I'm tired of giving people an opening date because I'd have to lie to them," says Stowell, who spent this past weekend cleaning up the place and "arranging it so that it looks like an operating restaurant" — just in case inspectors get in here this week for the final nod. As soon as that happens, he says, "We'll start prepping [food]. And with guys at Union and Tavolata getting things ready, it'll be quick." Hey, City Hall! We're hungry here!

Guess who's in the Cucina?

First, the Bellevue-based Schwartz Brothers Restaurants sold their Cucina!Cucina! chain to Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, who sold them to the Canada-based chain that operates Joeys in Bellevue and Lake Union. And now, in an ironic turn of events, Schwartz Brothers has bought back the Cucina! in Redmond Town Center, intent on reincarnating it as Spazzo Italian Grill & Wine Bar.

"We were really disappointed when we lost the lease on the Bellevue location," says company president Lindsey Schwartz, whose restaurant closed its doors atop the Key Bank Building in May 2005, shortly after undergoing an expensive remodel and thematic makeover.

"Since we lost Spazzo, we've been working hard to get another restaurant on the Eastside," says Schwartz, whose company also owns Daniel's Broiler and Chandler's Crabhouse. Word that the Cucina! location in Redmond was up for grabs was all the impetus they needed to take over a space that had once been one of the top performers in Cucina! restaurant chain, Schwartz says.

"The big conversion at [the original] Spazzo wasn't going from Mediterranean to Italian" — as they did in 2003 — "it was putting in the wine bar." The wine bar will be a very important focal point here in Redmond, too, Schwartz says. As will chef Peter Kelly's menu, set to feature pizzas, pastas and wood-oven-roasted meats and seafoods. With a remodel of Cucina! already under way, we can hope to see the new Spazzo in business by mid-April.

Nancy Leson: 206-464-8838 or

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Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


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