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IL Bistro and Amaro Bistro

Age doesn't matter

IL Bistro, that European charmer in Pike Place Market, turns 40 in January 2015. Amaro Bistro, its modern counterpart, will turn two (months) in January. No matter which atmosphere you prefer, the dining experience is the same: great Italian fare, wonderful wines, and considerate service.

Seattle restaurateur Peter Lamb opened IL Bistro in 1975. He eventually sold it to Dale Abrams, who eventually sold it to Nick Wiltz (in front of Amaro's wine case) on December 1, 2004. Nick had been working at IL Bistro as a manager. He'd taken the job because it was dinner only and it freed up his days to look for an existing restaurant to buy or start his own from scratch. "Dale was always interested in what I was finding out," recalls Nick. "I thought he was just curious, but he was actually considering retiring. After I'd been there for a year he asked if I'd consider buying IL Bistro. I knew it wasn't a good negotiating tactic to say 'it would be my dream come true, I'd do anything!,' but I'd been using IL Bistro as my model: great location, concept, food. Dale was a mentor to me and between my experience and what he shared, I felt prepared to be an owner. Of course you don't know what you don't know, so there are always surprises."

On day one of his ownership, Dale handed him keys that belonged to the bookkeeper who Nick was relying on to help him. "She's gone," he said. That same day, a compressor went out on one of the freezers. "Those two things were a little ominous and scary. Overall though, I'm proud of how prepared I was. There was nothing really outside of my experience that made it difficult to go from being a manager to an owner. If I ever give anyone advice about owning a restaurant, it's that you should only do it if you don't have to do it. I could have worked for other people my whole life and it would have been fine. But if you feel a restaurant, or any large purchase, is 'almost' right, don't pull the trigger. Every piece of the puzzle should be in place; then you can take the risk."

He felt the same way about owning a second place. "Nearly the whole time I've owned IL Bistro, I've kept an eye open for other opportunities. I've visited places for sale and studied the potential, but I never found the right one. I live in Bothell; I know and like the community, and like how it's being redesigned. The first development is Six Oaks, apartments and retail. We've taken space on the ground floor of the building. As it turned out, the developers are big fans of IL Bistro and have been dining with us for years. They were excited about us opening in Six Oaks. I still had to make sure it was right, though. I think there's a market for a place like ours. Then I found out McMenamins was taking over the Anderson School. I lived in Portland for six years and knew all about them and it's going to be great to have the hotel and all that goes with that."

Amaro greeting station with dining room beyond

Amaro Bistro opened on November 24, 2014, offering lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The concept and menu is similar to IL Bistro: about 75% of the menu is identical. But Amaro Bistro has a large Stone Hearth oven where they bake pizza, and roast meats and fish. They also have an exhibition kitchen and a large, visible wine case. "The primary difference is that IL Bistro is located in a 100-year-old building at Pike Place Market and has a European feel," explains Nick. "Amaro Bistro is in a brand new building, so we thought it appropriate to make the space more modern. We also have windows and slide-and-fold doors that will allow us to open two walls to patio dining in warmer weather."

Photo: cioppino can be found at both IL Bistro and Amaro Bistro

Nick's background has led him to this moment. His grandmother owned a restaurant in Portland. He was just 3 or 4 when she retired, but he remembers that her home kitchen was filled with commercial equipment. "I thought it was so cool that she had a big stainless steel refrigerator, a six-burner gas range, a 100-pound meat scale, and a 3-foot tall coffee grinder. She made beautiful, delicious meals so effortlessly. None of the other kids in the family were interested, but I loved it. She had this great way of moving in the kitchen." At 15, he started working in restaurants and hasn't stopped since (click here to see his background). "I've never done anything else in my life, and don't want to," he says. "I met my wife in high school; we've been together for 32 years and married for 26. We're both used to the nights, holidays and weekends."

If you love IL Bistro, it's time to a) return and fall in love all over again, and b) head over to Bothell to see what Amaro has to offer. 40 years or two months-it's all beautiful.

IL Bistro
93A Pike St
Seattle, WA 98101
206-682-3049
www.ilbistro.net

Photo: lamb entree found at both locations

Amaro Bistro
18333 Bothell Wy NE, #105
Bothell, WA 98011
425-485-2300
www.amarorestaurant.com

 

Connie Adams/January 2015


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