There were a few problems with the name Erik Cannella and Adrianne Young gave to their small-town restaurant. People saw the sign for “Cafe Manson” and either mistook it for a coffee shop or were tempted to make a crack about Charles Manson. So this May, the husband-and-wife team rechristened their four-year-old eatery Cannella Kitchen.
Cannella’s actual kitchen has only the kind of four-burner stove you’d find in a grungy apartment rental, but it’s fancy compared to what he used for 10 years at the original Matt’s in the Market. “We made a four-star restaurant on two butane burners and a steam table,” he recalls. Let go shortly after Matt’s expanded in 2006, Cannella bounced around the West before ending up in Manson, a town in sore need of quality dining.
It used to be, Cannella says, most Chelan visitors were the fishing and boating resort crowd: “They want something to push down their kids’ throats; they want pizza, they want Mexican food, they want burgers.” But the rise of the area’s wineries led to demand for the kind of food he served: a smoked trout plate, a rhubarb and candied orange puff-pastry dessert. Visitors and second-home owners “like it because it has a sophistication to it; tastes like they’re in the city,” he says. “But the locals like it because, realistically, it’s all basic food; it’s pickles and smoked fish.”
For four years the restaurant has survived the long, slow winters; one December the pair had a paltry 16 customers over the entire month. But their “biggest failure day” was when Cannella served a delicate sole special stuffed with salmon mousseline on red wine release weekend. “They had been drinking red wine all day, so it was like eating a bowl of tin,” he recalls. “They were coming in with a palate that’s just been destroyed—the next year we did chili night.”
Beyond changing the name, they’re starting a packaged-food company to sell kale chips and other snacks from their home garden to wineries. The vodka and tequila infusions Cannella makes on their farm inspired the new craft bar in their downtown space.
Rebranded or not, the one thing they can’t quite escape is the perception of fine dining. The gauzy white curtains and tall black bistro chairs mark Cannella Kitchen as the swankiest spot in either Chelan or Manson. “We’ve always tried to be casual, and no one would let us be casual,” says Cannella. Perhaps all that’s left to try is showing diners his actual cramped, four-burner kitchen.
Cannella Kitchen, 94 E Wapato Way, 509-888-4197; cannellakitchen.com
Published: August 2013