The chef with the cherub face and tattoo sleeves will tell you his specialty is “pasta, seafood, and vegetables.” Simple stuff as restaurant concepts go, but then factor in the flawless fish and produce. Clevenger’s got a knack for brilliant combos—his dungeness crab, endive, and snap peas dish belongs in some sort of salad hall of fame—and a brain equally devoted to culinary technique and the prosaics of cost management. This formula is why his original restaurant, Vendemmia, is reliably busy three years in. It’s also the reason the chef’s currently in full throttle mode. He opened two restaurants this past year and has a third coming along in Eastlake. Here’s the breakdown.
The chef’s second restaurant is all but indistinguishable from his first, but if Vendemmia is geoduck and uni, says Clevenger, Raccolto remains in more familiar territory—a la sustainable local albacore. The housemade pasta lineup is slightly larger, and West Seattle’s lower operating costs mean these bowls run between $13 and $16.
When Clevenger stepped into the former Ernest Loves Agnes on 19th Avenue, the neighborhood quickly decreed his original plan, Italian restaurant with a pizzeria next door, would be better as one space. Here, the seafood-pasta-vegetable situation comes with a pizza menu. Clevenger’s pies are Naples with a hit of Round Table—they start in the purest of Italian tradition, then get baked in a deck oven with enough cheese to be slightly nostalgic of the American pizza (primally satisfying, if uninspired in hindsight) that many of us grew up eating.
A new building at the former Azteca site will become home to another, as yet unnamed, neighborhood restaurant, very reminiscent of Vendemmia but with prices akin to Raccolto. Look for it around December.