Critic's Notebook

Ponti to Close July 2

Say farewell to the steady fishhouse with the brilliant location.

By Kathryn Robinson June 13, 2016

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A view of two pontis, from Ponti.

Image: Facebook

Ponti announced last week its upcoming closure July 2. Which leaves fans three weeks to stop by for a last meal.

In its 25 years doing business at the south end of the Fremont Bridge—the titular “ponti”—the place drew both loyal locals and tourists. Owner Rich Malia, whose Seattle cred reached back four decades to the The Snug and Mrs. Malia’s, was a restaurateur’s restaurateur; a gracious old-schooler who opened Ponti in 1990 with then co-owner Jim Malevitsis, the owner of Adriatica.

The place was special from the get-go: in part due to its unusual viewy location along the Ship Canal, in part because of its thoughtful global treatments of fish under the direction of young chef Alvin Binuya, who had apprenticed with the brazen young Tom Douglas at Café Sport.

Then, pan-Asian food in particular was still breaking news in Seattle—Wild Ginger had opened on Western just the year before—so Ponti’s creative platefuls of Southeast Asia turned heads. The owners also foresaw another emerging trend—private dining rooms—and built Ponti with enough of them to establish the place as an office party stalwart. Add in its killer happy hour, and Ponti was reeling them in.  

Time passed, a city changed. Belltown seized the spotlight in the mid-90s, Binuya left to open his own restaurant on Bainbridge in 2001, a restaurant revolution came to Seattle leaving classic warhorses struggling to maintain regulars in the face of waves of blog-promoted newbies.

Through it all, Ponti stayed afloat—even welcoming Binuya back seven years ago. But 25 is a long time in restaurant years—and Malia was done. “I’m 69 and ready to pursue other business interests and spend time in service to the community,” he announced in last week’s press release, along with the wistfully fitting news that the space will now be home to the Queen Anne Elks Club.  

Wine collectors note: Ponti’s wine inventory, including Leonetti and DeLille bottles, will be sold at or below wholesale until the closing date of July 2.

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