Ethan and Angela Stowell’s newest restaurant, Cortina, officially opens today. It’s the couple’s biggest restaurant yet—220 seats—and the product of an economy where Seattle office buildings woo ascendant companies with amenities like a ground-floor restaurant from a well-known local chef. But its location in Two Union Tower in the Union Square complex (aka Sixth and Union) puts Cortina in play for anybody who works, shops, or partakes of the theater in this pocket of downtown.
The larger format and ample kitchen space allow for a menu that's essentially a supersized version of the focused offerings at other Stowell restaurants; Ethan describes it as “like a beefed-up Tavolàta.” There are pastas, of course (carbonara, potato gnocchi with pork cheek and fava beans, linguini nero with lobster, nduja, and breadcrumbs), and entrees like halibut or steak or a double-cut pork chop. Yep, there’s definitely a burger. Pizzas employ the same recipe as the ones at Bar Cotto, and the broad lineup of starters—from smoked lobster bruschetta to a fried duck egg with wild mushrooms and ramps—anticipates plenty of people coming in for drinks and snacks. And apparently, per the press release, one hell of a shellfish tower.
Cortina's lunch slate goes heavier on sandwiches and entree salads with a Stowellian feel; the couple brought over Scott Siff, most recently the chef at Tavolàta Capitol Hill, to helm this busy kitchen. Beverages are similarly abundant, thanks to a 60-foot bar tricked out with the sort of niceties, like freezers at each station, that make bartenders' lives easier and customers' drinks appear faster. "It's our most involved cocktail program," says Ethan, plus eight taps of beer and cider and wine aplenty.
This room definitely exudes a downtown vibe. Above that enormous bar, the ceiling overlaid with slats of oak feels like a futuristic urban nod to to wood-wrapped dining room at How to Cook a Wolf. For a large space, it's broken up into approachable snippets—bar seating, lounge seating, dining room (and the private dining room requisite to new Seattle restaurants in 2018). Like the menu, it's a place designed for lunch, happy hour, and an early dinner crowd, one that will probably materialize pretty quickly given all those nearby offices. Not to mention its proximity to the convention center.
Team Stowell already has a Cortina page on its website, complete with sample menu, and an Instagram feed full of fun facts: apparently every table and bar seat has a plug and a USB port? Looks like I have a new place to laptop squat/drink/write.
Next up for Ethan and Angela: Super Bueno, the family friendly Stone Way restaurant whose kid pit and taco lineup is a 180-degree shift from Cortina's sleek quarters.