After some sprucing, the corner space at East Mercer St and 19th Ave East is open for business once again. What was formerly Ernest Loves Agnes—and the longstanding Kingfish Cafe before that—is now a duo of restaurants from chef Brian Clevenger along with partners Kayley Turkheimer and Jason LaJeunesse.
The bones have remained much the same, though Clevenger has of course made room for a four-person chef’s counter on the pass, where plates of braised lamb and black cod will emerge from the kitchen alongside small dishes like lamb carpaccio and the underloved geoduck, here with golden raisins, celery, and apple.
Those familiar with Clevenger’s Madrona restaurant Vendemmia plus its sibling market and raw bar East Anchor Seafood next door, and his latest, Raccolto in West Seattle will recognize his attention to vegetables, crudo, and handmade pasta. But at Contadino, he says flavors will be a little bolder with spices like coriander. On the pasta front, there will be a staple of six, which right now include spaghetti with uni butter, tagliatelle with pork shank, and ravioli stuffed with spring onion, cauliflower, and ricotta.
As for Pizzeria Contadino, Clevenger assures the same care with which he creates pasta will applied to the Neopolitan-style pizza. To that end, he’s brought on Nelson Whitmore, who comes from Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco with some serious dough knowledge, to helm both kitchens. There will be six pizzas on the menu, plus a daily special, and all will be of “this perfect texture of crunchy, but not cracker-y, chewy, but not dough-y,” says Clevenger; the stuff of Goldilocks, just-right pizza.
And booze hounds don’t fret, the full bar endures, with eight beers and ciders on tap, plus Italian and Northwest wines.
Both Contadino and Pizzeria Contadino will open daily from 5 to 10, with happy hours from 5 to 6. To avoid any GPS mapping mishaps: Contadino is located at 602 19th Ave East, while Contadino Pizzeria is next door at 600 19th Ave East.