Mike Easton is selling Il Nido as he prepares to move east and focus on his new project, Bar Bacetto, in Waitsburg. But the singular Italian restaurant near Alki Beach is poised for a smooth transition: Its new owners are longtime manager Cameron Williams and the restaurant’s executive chef, Katie Gallego.
“I entered into it knowing that’s where I’d end up,” says Easton of the pasta bar he’s preparing to open this summer on the other side of the state. The one that will echo the seasonal pasta bowls that built Easton's fame back at Il Corvo. His fiancee, Erin Carr, will be behind the (non-pasta) bar and the couple will live in the storied building (the former home of Jimgermanbar) with Easton’s teenage daughter, Pilar. “I’m ready for a change, ready to leave Seattle” says the chef. “I’ve been here since 1999.”
In some ways Easton's departure from Il Nido is a monumental moment of non-news. The destination restaurant within a historic log cabin will continue operating all but unchanged. Williams, a seasoned restaurant ops guy, has run the books and the front of house since before doors opened in 2019 to a frenzy of pasta-fueled excitement. He navigated its reservations and service through the early days when fans would stay up until midnight to pounce on each new day’s batch of availability. He also oversaw its rebirth from short-term pasta market during the 2020 shutdown to a Covid-compliant fine dining restaurant in a moment when most establishments were still staying afloat with burgers and takeout.
Gallego, meanwhile, connected with Easton after running a kitchen in Tuscany, and joined the kitchen part-time when Il Nido opened in May 2019. By September, Easton had promoted her to chef de cuisine. “My plan was always to talk her into being chef,” he says.
Since then, “the food’s been hers,” he says. “Nothing’s really going to change—just people hopefully start giving her credit where credit is due.”
She and Easton bring their own styles to the kitchen, but share a common philosophy on food and ingredients, a union abundantly clear on the pasta menu. Easton devised some of Il Nido’s menu stars, like the bone in rib eye flavored with juniper and rosemary. “Those are his and I don’t plan on changing them,” says Gallego. But 80 percent of the menu is already mine.”
Williams, meanwhile, orchestrated Il Nido's dual identity as both a dinner destination and a place where neighbors can drop in for dinner at the bar or aperitivi hour on the patio."Basically you always pretend like you own the restaurant in the way you act and run the books," he says.
This being Seattle, he had a connection with Gallego long before the two landed at Il Nido; Williams worked with her older sister at Wild Ginger 20 years earlier. Their yin-and-yang skill sets are a boon, he says. "She's really strong where I'm not." Thus their partnership "was a very natural idea." Says Gallego of her new business partner: "I adore him; my family adores him. I consider him like family at this point."
This week Easton gathered Il Nido's staff for a party on the front lawn and opened a five-liter bottle of Champagne to share the news. The transaction should become official around June 1. He leaves Seattle for good mid-June, ending a pretty inspired era in our civic food story, but still very much here, four hours to the east. Meanwhile, Il Nido carries on.