A month after Jason Lajeunesse and business partner Joey Burgess shut down the short-lived fine Italian restaurant Ernest Loves Agnes, two restaurants have taken its place.
Contadino and Pizzeria Contadino opened Monday, Feb. 27.
Lajeunesse partnered with Kayley Turkeheimer and chef Brian Clevenger for this new Capitol Hill venture.
Clevenger opened Venemmia in Madrona in May 2015, followed by East Anchor Seafood next door, also with Turkheimer as a partner. Pasta-centric Raccolto opened in West Seattle in November.
Ernest Loves Agnes opened in September 2015, its interior paying homage to Ernest Hemingway and his story of a love affair with a nurse he met in a Red Cross hospital in Italy during World War I.
Clevenger told the Capitol Hill Times he and Lajeunesse have several mutual friends, and Lajeunesse had approached him in the past about changing Ernest Loves Agnes. At first he was too busy, but the timing ended up being right recently.
“I’ve always loved the space, back when it was Kingfish (Cafe), and I thought it would be good for two restaurants,” Clevenger said.
The division into two restaurants included creating two kitchens and two different interiors.
“I had some great team builders come in, and we had a game plan and they stuck to it,” Clevenger said, “and now it’s a little easier since we’ve done it a couple times before.”
On the more intimate side, Contadino will include upscale Italian fare in a room that seats 45. “A banquette runs along the north wall with marble table tops and black bentwood chairs adding a bistro vibe,” according to a news release. Diners have the option of a $70-per-person tasting menu at the chef’s counter. There are a dozen seats at the full bar.
Small dishes include lamb carpaccio with crème fraîche, arugula and Parmesan and chicken liver mousse with crostini and pickled mustard seeds. House-made pastas will include cavatelli with bolognese, mint and pecorino, bucatini with nettles and chanterelle mushrooms, and paccheri with rabbit, porcini and Parmesan.
Pizzeria Contadino will include copper tabletops and booths for 40, plus 10 bar stools.
There will be small bites like meatballs with tomato and chili flakes and house-stretched mozzarella with pesto and arugula.
Pizza options include Calabrian sausage with escarole and mozzarella, wild mushrooms with Talleggio and thyme, and mozzarella with tomato and basil.
There will be eight beers and ciders on tap, plus Italian and Northwest wine offerings.
Nelson Whitmore, formerly of Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco, will work with Clevenger and eventually take over for both spaces.
“The learning curve is going to be a little easier for Nelson because we came from the same restaurant in San Francisco,” he said. “I’m still going to be cooking at one of the restaurants every single day.”
Find out more at contadinoseattle.com.