Editor's Note

When Seattle Restaurants Shutter

It’s more than just the loss of beloved menu items.

By James Ross Gardner October 16, 2018 Published in the November 2018 issue of Seattle Met

The first time The Seattle Times clocked the term “restaurant closure,” according to its archives, was December 1979. On the chopping block sat Little Luigi’s, an Italian food stand at the Seattle Center’s Food Circus, which opened during the World’s Fair. Upon learning of Little Luigi’s demise, a pair of apparent bucatini buffs submitted a letter to the editor: “Our family has eaten there since its opening in 1962,” they wrote. “We find it the only good reason to visit the Seattle Center.”

Little Luigi owner Louie Ferrera had indeed dished pasta for nearly 20 years, but a voter-passed $19.4 million bond meant a new direction for the Seattle Center, one that didn’t include the 58-year-old Ferrera. “I stay awake at night just wondering why,” he fretted to a reporter at the time.

News of a restaurant closure gets at something larger than just the loss of a place. Here at Seattle Met, a palpable sense of deflation passes through the office. “No!” an editor might exclaim via Slack, followed by a choice GIF. (It’s endless ’90s-era Simpsons clips around here, if you’re curious.)

Two went under during the making of our annual breakdown of the best places to eat (“Seattle's Best New Restaurants of 2018"). In September, Babirusa—the barbecue-inspired creation of René Gutierrez and Charles Walpole—announced it was permanently going out of business. Then Petite Galerie in Madison Valley called it quits after just seven months. Both had earned admiration from Seattle Met restaurant reviewer Allecia Vermillion. Both were slated for our annual list of favorite new places.

Beyond never again enjoying a burger smeared with charred eggplant (Babirusa) or bone marrow custard (Petite Galerie), there’s a fear that our culinary scene is struggling. Or that maybe we’ve all aimed just a little too high.

Thankfully, that feeling is short lived. I take heart in the fact that on Nosh Pit, our food and drink blog, we report  the arrival of at least one new, exciting eatery almost weekly.

But every closure still stings, whether in 2018 or 1979.

Though you can only shed so many tears for Little Luigi’s Louie Ferrera. Apparently then, like today, there was one solid hedge against Seattle’s unpredictable roller coaster of restaurant openings and closings.

He had another location in Bellevue.

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