Hines in chef-diplomat mode, exploring a Sicilian market (and cooking Thanksgiving dinner) with a local television crew. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Consulate General, Naples.

Maria Hines is back from her travels in Sicily, and apparently isn’t letting the jet lag slow her down. Last night Hines finalized the deal for the 35th Street Bistro space at 709 N 35th Street. In less than a month it will be reborn as Agrodolce, a southern Italian and Sicilian trattoria. The James Beard-winning, Iron Chef-dominating Hines even has an official opening date for her third restaurant: December 21.

Doomdsday aficionados might recognize this date as the supposed end of the world, at least according to the Mayan calendar. Hines is embracing the date—and her new location in purposefully wacky Fremont—with an end-of-the-world party and prix-fixe menu.

Hines didn't do much in the way of planning for her 11-day trip, but karma was on her side. Her travel tweets caught the eye of an Italy-based Tilth fan who invited the chef to come stay in his villa in the town of Giarre. The grandiose quarters with its view of the Mediterranean and Mt. Etna was definitely a step up from the night Hines spent in her rental car. She also filmed a local television special as part of her chef-diplomat role with the U.S. State Department and sampled/researched her way through various sea creatures, plenty of pasta, and one spleen sandwich that won't be making an appearance on the menu. One of her biggest revelations, however, was the cannoli. In Sicily they have a slightly barnyardy quality, more cheesy than sweet, because they're made with sheep's milk ricotta.

"I would love someone to prove me wrong, but nobody makes a good cannoli in Seattle," says Hines. She wants this to be a signature, craveworthy item at Agrodolce, but is still on the hunt for a sheep's milk ricotta source, or even just sheep's milk. She's also a big fan of the intense, slightly floral taste of Sicilian pistachios, a must for the pistachio gelato she's envisioning.

But overall Hines says her travels confirmed the flavor profiles she already had planned for the menu. When Agrodolce opens, look for housemade burrata, arancini (aka fried rice balls) stuffed with beef and tomato, and lamb meatballs with dried currants and grilled radicchio. The restaurant also gives Hines a chance to go all-out with her pasta skills; she’s planning dishes like thick, spaghetti-like bucatini with pine nuts, sardine, wild fennel, and golden raisins, or the tiny packets of pasta known as fagottini, filled with sheep’s milk ricotta, black truffle butter, garlic, and marjoram.

Agrodolce will start with dinner service, and expand into lunch, brunch, and happy hour in early 2013. Tilth executive chef Jason Brzozowy will work alongside Hines at both restaurants, and Agrodolce will hold the same hard-core organic Oregon Tilth certification as Tilth and Golden Beetle.

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