This was an unexpected development. Jason Stratton, the chef behind Spinasse, Artusi, and most recently Vespolina, confirmed today that he and the restaurants have parted ways.
In talking to Stratton, he was much more eager to champion the talents of Stuart Lane, Spinasse's chef de cuisine and now the culinary head of all things Spinasse and Artusi, and Katie Gallego, who took over Vespolina's kitchen when Carrie Mashaney went on maternity leave, than to dwell on his own personal affairs. But he did say that after seven years, "my batteries are a little drained." He's not sure what's next but is ultimately headed to Spain, where his longtime partner has been for the past six months, though Stratton says it's not necessarily permanent—"I love Seattle; it's my home."
Stratton came on board as Spinasse's chef in 2008, making the Capitol Hill trattoria an essential dining destination, then opened neighboring bar Artusi in 2011. This past year held some professional tumult for Stratton; he opened a Spanish restaurant, Aragona, in late 2013 then, under pressure from investors, retooled it as an Italian spot called Vespolina, this past September. He remained professional and positive throughout, but it's not unfathomable the guy might need a break.
Over the weekend, Capitol Hill Seattle blog did some digging on a judgment from a lawsuit brought last year by the company that did the buildout on Aragona/Vespolina.
Struggles like the Vespolina changeup, says Stratton, "Make you value a lot you were taking for granted." Which would sound corny as all hell coming from someone less prone to genuine self-examination. Let's hope Seattle has not seen the last of him.