Ethan and Angela Stowell — among the most successful restaurateurs in town, with (for the moment) four spots on Capitol Hill alone — have found that sweet spot between adventure and predictability.

Take a look at the menu: mainstream yet sophisticated, unfussy and nonthreatening, American variations on country Italian themes. Take a look into the kitchen: it could be a fraternity in the 1960s, with pale faces in well-trimmed lumberjack beards. (Only in multicultural, multiracial Seattle does this look bizarre.)

Above all, take a look at the balance sheet. Just four years ago, Ethan Stowell Restaurants were at $10 million. Today, with 16 restaurants (plus the pasta company and a consulting deal with Safeco Field’s catering company), it’s $25 million. Let that sink in: there’s no environment more competitive than restaurants, and the Stowells have more than doubled their company’s revenues in since 2013.

For a quarter century, Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, artistic directors of the Pacific Northwest Ballet, stood at the summit of Seattle’s cultural elite. Russell had founded the company’s ballet school; Stowell père, among his many achievements, choreographed Seattle’s holiday favorite Nutcracker.  They had three sons, one with Oregon Ballet Theater, one with Teach for America, and the youngest, Ethan, who went to work at 16 making shakes at Daley’s on Eastlake. At The Ruins supper club, which just announced it will close in January, he started by taking out the trash and cleaning the garage. His first restaurant, Union, which opened when Ethan was only 28, failed when its downtown customer base (specifically, Washington Mutual) fell victim to the 2008 recession. Early success and early failure was followed by a relatively swift and steady recovery.

In Union’s wake, Ethan (soon joined by his wife, Angela Dunleavy Stowell) created new spaces a dozen of them — all deep within Seattle’s rich tapestry of residential neighborhoods: Capitol Hill, Belltown, Queen Anne, Greenlake, Ballard, Madrona. He had no overarching marketing strategy, like “tourism.” Not that he turns away tourists, but they’re not his focus. There’s no shame in courting hotel concierges, of course, or in courting the media, or in siting all your restaurants within walking distance of one another, as Tom Douglas has done with bustling big-city brasseries.

Stowell’s restaurants are designed to be cozy neighborhood bistros. They offer a menu that’s neither fussy nor expensive, service that’s courteous, ambiance that’s warm and welcoming. The Stowells recognize they will always be compared with Douglas, but he’s really in a different world.

So why are they selling Anchovies and Olives, 1550 15th Ave., once named to a list of the country’s top new restaurants? Why are they selling its next-door neighbor, the cozy Bar Cotto ,1546 15th Ave.? Because, friends, they don’t measure up to the other horses in the stable.

If the Stowells owned only those two places, they’d probably hang on to them forever, grousing bitterly about neighborhood traffic patterns that made15th Avenue inhospitable to walk-in traffic, about the lack of appreciation for Italian fare like mortadella or cocktails like barrel-aged Negronis, about having to pay dishwashers $15 an hour, about landlords and health inspectors and ungrateful Yelpers. (All perfectly legitimate issues, by the way, and not limited to any one location or cuisine.)

But the Stowells understand that the restaurant business is, at its most basic, an unsentimental business. Sentiment can play a role, sure, but only when you’re profitable. So you study the numbers and you bite the bullet, ideally sooner rather than later.

It’s not as if the Stowells are leaving the Hill entirely. Rione XIII, 401 15th Ave. E., is going strong; Tavolata, 501 E. Pike St., is doing gangbusters. But it’s time to pay attention to a new neighborhood: Downtown. Cortina, 621 Union St., on the site of the original Union Square Grill and the recently departed Sullivan’s, is a bigger space than anything the Stowells have tackled before. Will it prove a big, bold step? Or a bridge too far? Look for it to open early next year.

Stowell has the wherewithal, technically, to recreate the experience of dining in Rome (Rione XIII), of making his own pasta (Lagana, in the basement of Tavolata in Belltown), of engaging his fans with special events and “Sunday Suppers.” At Safeco Field, he broke out of the self-imposed box that limits the appeal of celebrity chefs to the followers of celebrity chefs. He’s not on the Guy Fieri low road (thank goodness), but he’s making a connection at the ballpark with a heck of a lot more diners than could ever squeeze into Bar Cotto or How to Cook a Wolf.

And there are moments of greatness from Stowell’s kitchens, such as a breathtaking ricotta gnocchi with beef tongue sugo at the Belltown Tavolata. The gnocchi were cloud-like, the tongue flavorful and meltingly tender. The dish had an evocative power, taking me back into a childhood of steaming kitchens, grandmothers, great-aunts and noisy family dinners (not that I grew up with any of that, but you get the picture). Mortadella and prosciutto di Parma at Bar Cotto, washed down with a glass of slightly fizzy lambrusco. Puntarelle (winter chicory) at Rione XIII. Excellent, and will be missed.

Angela Stowell is the company’s chief financial officer. “It’s a business and needs a business plan,” both Stowells acknowledge. “An art, a craft, and a small business.” Says one well-regarded industry observer: “Here’s how the business of a neighborhood restaurant works: you go to work every day, you take your turn at bat, you keep your eye on the ball. Stowell and his wife strike me as savvy operators who understand how to build a brand.”

That brand, of course, is “Ethan Stowell.” Confirmation at the national level: Restaurant Hospitality magazine named Ethan and Angela Stowell as the 2016 recipients of its Innovator of the Year Award for creating outstanding restaurants across multiple concepts.

“We stay on top of things daily,” says Angela Stowell. “The executive team gets an email every day with every social media post. You have to know what your guests are thinking, right or wrong.”

Ronald Holden is a restaurant writer for Pacific Publishing. His latest book, “Forking Seattle,” is available on Amazon.