Three years ago, Brian Clevenger opened Vendemmia in Madrona and cracked the code of a restaurant-challenged neighborhood with a menu all about seafood, housemade pasta, and vegetables. Since then, we've learned his simple, well-executed food transfers well to other residential parts of town: Clevenger opened two more places in the past nine months; now he's at work on a new restaurant in Eastlake.
The new restaurant doesn't have a name quite yet, but the chef says its menu will be much like the one at Vendemmia. Clevenger's not a guy who comes up with wildly different concepts every time he signs a lease; "it's okay to say 'I know what I'm best at, and I'm going to do that,'" he told me recently. One could say his restaurants are pretty similar, but his original spot is particularly partial to the ocean's more singular occupants, like uni and geoduck. However Eastlake's relatively lower operating costs mean prices will be slightly lower along the lines of Raccolto, the more pasta-heavy place he opened this past November in West Seattle.
Since opening Raccolto, Clevenger also stepped in to turn the former Ernest Loves Agnes space into another Italian restaurant, Contadino. Original plans split one of the town's most charming restaurant spaces into a trattoria on one side and a pizza bar on the other, but three weeks in, says Clevenger, customers would ask to sit in one dining room but order items from the other. He rolled with it and combined the whole enterprise into one spot.
So, depending on how you count it, the guy has already opened two (or three) restaurants in nine months. There's kind of a biographical element to Clevenger's restaurants; he lives in West Seattle and before that, lived in Eastlake for years. The restaurant he's planning, in a new building on the main drag, could open by the end of the year. The similarities to Clevenger's original restaurant will also extend to the face in the open kitchen—Rock Silva, the chef de cuisine at Vendemmia, will come over to to run the kitchen.