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Café to Café



By Ronald Holden

In the process of updating his most recent book, FORKING SEATTLE, to be released later this year, Ronald has added a new feature: a chronology of the city's culinary history, from its very earliest days (Manca's Cafe, Frangos, Borracchini, Uwajimaya) to the present (Edouardo Jordan, Shota Nakajima, Howard Schultz, Jeff Bezos). Here's an example, 20 events over a ten-year span that helped define Seattle's culinary path.

1970: Gordon Bowker, a journalist and screenwriter, orders a cappuccino at a cafe across from the Trevi Fountain in Rome, tastes it and has an epiphany: he will become an evangelist for better coffee. Within two years, he and his roommates, Jerry Baldwin and Zev Siegl, open the first Starbucks Coffee Tea & Spice shop at the corner of Western & Virginia. (The building has since been torn down; the so-called "original" Starbucks on Pike Place is an impostor.)

1972: Gwen Bassetti opens the Grand Central Bakery in the basement of the venerable Grand Central building in Pioneer Square. Her signature bread is the Como loaf; her first full-time baker is Leslie Mackie, who would go on to create her own bakery business, Macrina.

1973: Armen Stepanian, an actor and carpenter from New York, sets up a booth to collect old newspapers at the first Fremont Fair to raise money for the neighborhood food bank. It quickly turns into a drive to collect paper, metal and other household waste. Today's curbside recycling is the result.

1974: A bakery in Pioneer Square called the Bread Line & Soup Kitchen hires senior citizens as waiters and dresses them in Depression-era clothing. The menu promises 1929 prices (lunches $1.35, dinners $3.25) and atmosphere. Amazingly, it lasts six years.

1974: Victor Rosellini's son, Robert, having grown up surrounded by good food and wine, opens The Other Place, serving fare that was not often seen on Northwest menus: game from the Skagit Valley, from Vashon Island, from Puyallup. His chef is Bruce Naftaly, who will go on to open several of his own restaurants.

1974: Shiro Kashiba, a modest veteran of Jiro Ono's famous Sukiyabashi sushi parlor in Tokyo, begins serving sablefish {also known as Alaska black cod) at a Japanese restaurant called Nikko. He uses an almost forgotten recipe: marinating the fish in sake lees. Within a short time, every seafood restaurant in Seattle has some version of kazu-sake cod on its menu. As Seattle sees more Japanese visitors (not to mention residents), Shiro moves to the Westin Hotel, then opens his own sushi parlor, Shiro's, in Belltown. He now owns Sushi Kashiba at the Pike Place Market.

1975: Federal judge George Boldt, after hearing arguments related to native American fishing rights in Washington state, rules (in what is known as the Boldt Decision) that Indian tribes have the right by longstanding treaties to manage the Columbia River salmon fishery alongside State officials as well as the right to 50 percent of the catch.

1975: Following the Vietnam War, some 20,000 Vietnamese refugees arrive at Camp Pendleton in southern California. Gov. Dan Evans dispatches an aide, future Secretary of State Ralph Munro, to interview some of the refugees. He writes back that Washington state should welcome them. Thousands will settle here, bringing with them their skills, their energy, and their food culture.

1975: Penn Cove Mussels is founded by the Jefferds family, who had searched the world for the best site for growing mussels and picked Penn Cove, on Whidbey Island. The beds are across from the bay from where the nutrient-rich Skagit River empties into Puget Sound.

1975: Angelo Pellegrini, an immigrant farm boy from Tuscany whose father found work on the Grand Coulee Dam, becomes a professor of classics at the University of Washington. He publishes The Unprejudiced Palate; Lean Years, Happy Years; and The Food Lover's Garden extolling the virtues of a backyard garden. He is considered today as the spiritual godfather of the Farm-to-Table movement.

1975: The first edition of Seattle Best Places is published by Dan Levant's Madrona Press. The first guidebook to Seattle restaurants, its impetus is a newsletter, A Gourmet's Notebook, written by a collection of opinionated (and anonymous) journalists, edited by David Brewster, who would go on to start Seattle Weekly.

1976: Charles Finkel, a wine merchant from Omaha whose support for Washington wine got him hired as Sales Manager at Chateau Ste. Michelle, along with his wife, Rose Ann, starts Merchant du Vin, a company to import craft beer from Europe. The Finkels eventually open their own operation, Pike Brewery in a building adjacent to the Pike Place Market. The brewery has expanded and now includes a pub and a seafood restaurant.

1976: Bruce Naftaly, today regarded as the Father of Northwest Cuisine, arrives in Seattle to further his career, not as a chef but as an opera singer. To pay for his studies, he takes a summer job as a dishwasher at Rosellini's Other Place (then the city's leading restaurant) and apprentices himself to the chef, Dominique Place. Within a year, he is named the restaurant's executive chef, then sets out on his own with Les Copains, Le Gourmand, and now Marmite.

1976: Two Frenchmen, Jacques Boiroux (a chef from Normandy) and Emile Ninaud (a wine expert from southern France), move their ambitious restaurant from cramped quarters on Capitol Hill into a new space in Lower Queen Anne. They call it Le Tastevin, and it becomes a center for wine-focused events. After it closes, Kaspar and Nancy Donier move their high-end restaurant (turned high-end catering company) from Belltown into the premises, until the property is redeveloped for housing. Kaspar and Nancy move to Magnolia.

1977: Dany Mitchell opens Trattoria Mitchelli in Pioneer Square. The Trat, as it's referred to, sells espresso drinks, bountiful portions of pasta, and inexpensive wines, and contributes to the revival of the neighborhood. His partner at the time, Jackie Roberts, opens the Pink Door in the Market. Mitchell goes on to launch several more restaurants (a gelateria, a too-fancy spot on Lake Union, Stellina's in the U District) and gives up in 2009. He moves to the south of France. The Trat stands empty until 2018 when Scott Carsberg moves in with his small-plate concept, Bisato (a revival of his restaurant from Belltown).

1977: Duke Moscrip, a one-time medical student who became a stockbroker, is also an early owner of Ray's Boathouse. When he opens the first Duke's Chowderhouse near Seattle Center, there's no cash register, just a cigar box; employees are paid in cash every night. Seven, going on eight Duke's stores these days, and a very big cigar box.

1978: Kent Bakke finds an ancient, non-working Victoria Arduino coffee machine at the back of his Pioneer Square sandwich shop, Hibble & Hyde. He tinkers with it until it somehow produces a cup of espresso. Intrigued, Bakke travels to Tuscany and, in a small town near Florence, meets the team at La Marzocca, a manufacturer of commercial espresso equipment. He becomes their US distributor and eventually convinces the folks at Starbucks to install La Marzocca machines in their new chain of coffee houses.

1978: Two waiters from the Brasserie Pittsbourg, Michel Robert and Randall Chicoine, start a wholesale bakery. They call it Les Boulangers Associés. LBA for short, and unexpectedly get a contract to supply par-baked croissants to the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. Eventually, there will be retail competitors (Le Panier, Macrina, Grand Central, Essential Bakery, La Panzanella) but LBA remains a formidable presence as a supplier to the restaurant trade.

1978: Charlie Billow, Ray Bowen, and Terry Bagley, form Triple B Corp. to supply locally-grown fruit and vegetables to restaurants, grocery stores, the maritime industry, institutions, even other wholesalers. They call their company Charlie's Produce. Today the company operates across eight western states. In Seattle alone, it maintains a fleet of over 200 trucks delivering everything from kale to carnations. Half its inventory is organically grown, and Charlie's works directly with many farmers to guarantee them a market for their crops.

1979: The first Pagliacci pizza opens in the University District, founded by Dorene Centioli McTigue, the daughter of burger pioneer Gil Centioli. Today the chain has over a dozen locations.

1979: Jim Malevitis, in a house perched high above Dexter Avenue, transforms a little French restaurant, Chez Paul, into Adriatica, with a Mediterranean menu and a chef, John Sarich, who knows his way around marinades and skewers. It doesn't last long. Malevitis goes on to other restaurant projects (including Belltown's Axis); Sarich has a brief run in the Market with Dalmatia, then moves to a long and successful career as executive chef at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

What will the 1980s bring? Among other things, Fratelli's ice cream, Redhook beer, the first pho parlors, the first French bakeries, Costco, Copper River salmon, Cinnabon, and the explosive growth of Starbucks.

June 2018

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