Brian Clevenger—the chef at Staple and Fancy, and before that Tavolàta—will open his own house of hand-cut pasta this summer on Madrona's main drag.
Clevenger's place will be called Vendemmia, the Italian term for a season's grape harvest. When a guy's resume includes two Ethan Stowell restaurants, a gig as head chef at Serafina, and before that time at San Francisco's spectacular Delfina, it's not surprising that he has strong feelings about pasta. He says he will cut, roll, or extrude it himself and dress it with lovely seasonal things—simple treatments that accentuate the pasta rather than obscure it.
The rest of Vendemmia's menu will consist of smaller vegetablecentric dishes more composed than rustic, a handful of meat or fish entrees, and a "decent selection" of food-forward wines.
The restaurant space—a new building at 1126 34th Ave—is similiarly restrained. Clevenger has long known his own place would need a chef counter. The one he's building at Vendemmia is just four seats, but anyone who reserves here will communicate any dietary restrictions in advance, show up, and let the chef unfold a multicourse menu he wrote that same day (he'll also be your server and sommelier).
Vendemmia will be right down the street from Red Cow, the French bistro Clevenger's current boss opened in 2014, though these days finding a space that isn't close to an Ethan Stowell restaurant would be kind of a challenge. He says Stowell has been uber supportive and offered some advice on making it in a neighborhood that's famously tricky for restaurants.
Clevenger's own formula for putting down roots in Madrona consists of keeping things small—around 35 seats—and keeping pasta dishes between $14 and $16. (The chef's counter dinner will be in the $50 range...still a pretty damn good deal.) He's all in on being a joint for the neighborhood and wants to be the guy who looks up from his open kitchen to greet regulars by name. Full disclosure: This is my neighborhood and man, do we need more places to eat.
Clevenger is aiming for a June opening; keep track of its progress on Vendemmia's Facebook page.