Journalism professors teach (half joking, but really completely seriously) that three examples of something officially makes it a trend. To put a culinary twist on that rule, somehow three restaurants makes a chef a restaurateur. The latest local luminary to make that leap: Maria Hines.
The James Beard–winning, Iron Chef–dominating Hines is in the process of taking over the 35th Street Bistro space in Fremont. By early next year (hopefully February) she will open Agrodolce, a casual restaurant focusing on pasta and the flavors of Southern Italy and Sicily.
Hines has always loved making pasta; Tilth usually has about two versions on the menu. But Sicily held a particular fascination because of its Arab influence. Agrodolce means “sweet and sour” in Italian, and Hines is eager to give an Italian translation to some of the flavors she loves using at Golden Beetle, like the classic combination of capers, golden raisins, and nuts that she describes as “bright and bold and full of sun.”
The new restaurant will have about 50 seats, similar in size to Tilth and Golden Beetle. As for the vibe and pricing, “I think it’s going to nestle between the two,” says Hines. A night at Tilth means a fixed menu, wine pairings, and a per-person check of about $60. Golden Beetle’s per-person check clocks in at around $30. Hines is thinking $40 for her new spot. Agrodolce will hold the same Oregon Tilth organic certification as its siblings, and Hines says drinkers can expect a craft cocktail list with some cool housemade elements.
A Fremont location makes geographic sense, since Hines bounces between Tilth in Wallingford, and Golden Beetle in Ballard, or GB in her own kitchen vernacular. Hines actually looked at this same space when she was opening Tilth, and the 709 North 35th Street address is still dear to the hearts of many longtime Fremonsters for its run as the Still Life Cafe. “Rest assured, the tree will stay,” she said of the interior's arboreal signature.
Tilth chef de cuisine and waffle king Jason Brzozowy will help get Agrodolce up and running, and will eventually transition into a role overseeing all three of Hines’s kitchens. One dish already slated for the menu: arancini, or small risotto fritters filled with some sort of vegetable or ragu in the center. Hines says she’s a sucker for these: “You pick it up and put it in your mouth and it’s salty, crunchy, and spicy. All the bells are going off on your tongue.” Entree-wise, she’s also excited about pasta con le sarde, a Sicilian dish with sardines, pine nuts, and golden raisins.
When Hines opened Golden Beetle, she traveled extensively through Istanbul, Cairo, and Beirut. Later this year she will fly to Sicily and submit to another round of what must be the most fun form of research known to mankind.
Anyone who wants to preview Hines’s new venture before Agrodolce opens should keep an eye on the Tilth menu once the chef returns from her travels, since some potential menu items will likely make an appearance. Hines also hopes to do a preview pop-up at Golden Beetle closer to the opening date.