With Il Corvo in an enviable state of ordered busyness, Mike Easton has announced he’s opening a dinner restaurant in a historic log cabin in his very own West Seattle neighborhood.
Known as the Alki Homestead, the building dates back to 1904, a home turned midcentury auto club and lodge that became a restaurant in 1950. In 2009, a fire damaged much of the interior; now owner Dennis Schilling is nearing the end of a yearslong restoration process to bring it back to its former rugged splendor.
Enter Mike Easton and his wife, Victoria Diaz Easton, who plan to open an Italian restaurant that serves brunch and dinner. It will be “pretty much open all the hours Il Corvo is closed,” he says. Easton looked at the building a year ago, but couldn’t wrap his brain around doing a project so big. “I tried to forget about it,” he says of the log cabin with the huge river rock fireplace. “But I couldn’t.”
At the time the chef was toying with the idea of an intimate, Spanish-style bar, but these timbered walls seem better suited to his signature talent: Italian food. Easton’s new restaurant will give him a chance to immerse himself in “truly handmade” rather than extruded pasta—“the more labor-intensive things we can’t get away with at Il Corvo anymore.” There aren’t hours in the day to produce enough handmade ravioli for the crowds who line up outside his lunch spot in Pioneer Square, but it’s a perfect fit for this dining room, and on a menu driven by seasonal vegetables. Sure, there will be proteins on the menu, but Easton wants those seasonal vegetables to shine: “I want them to be the star of the show as far as what directs our menu decisions,” he says. As chefs go, he’s not one who can deal with a static menu; the restaurant’s offerings will change weekly.
The Eastons have dubbed their restaurant Il Nido; it means “the nest,” a continuation of Il Corvo’s (and the erstwhile Pizzeria Gabbiano’s) avian theme. The food will feel high-end, says Mike, but the atmosphere will be relaxed and free of tablecloths. “We’re in West Seattle,” he says. “Any restaurant you open here needs to be chilled out just a little bit.” Once the original fireplace is rebuilt, he envisions it anchoring a central room of two-tops and banquettes. The rooms built on what was once the cabin's front porch will have big live-edge slab tables for families or groups.
Easton's always been a singular sort of chef, and a building steeped in its own unconventional history seems a good match for what he does. Right now the building is still in the throes of restoration—later this week, the enormous, iconic neon “Alki Homestead” sign will resume is beacon status atop the building—but Easton hopes to open in late spring or early summer next year.