Only three months into 2013, acclaimed chef and restaurateur Ethan Stowell is already enjoying a banner year. Not only has he nailed yet another James Beard award nomination for “Best Chef Northwest,” but he has also realized a longtime dream: opening a Parma-style salumeria, Bar Cotto.
Nestled into a cozy 1,000-square-foot space next to Stowell’s Anchovies & Olives at 15th Ave. and E. Pine St., this elegant yet unassuming little salumi bar serves up daily cured and cooked salumi specials, bruschetta, small plates and thin, crispy pizzas baked in the eatery’s two wood-burning ovens. Zach Chambers, chef at Anchovies & Olives, will run the Bar Cotto kitchen as well. With a daily happy hour from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., a focus on snacks and lighter fare and a choice drinks menu highlighting cocktails and Italian wines, this new restaurant makes for a serious contender for Capitol Hill happy hour and casual dining.
Outstanding salumi from international and local artisans (from Pioneer Square’s revered Salumi, for example) forms the core of the menu, from prosciutto di San Daniele and salame Felino to spicy coppa and housemade porchetta. A thin slice of culatello over a bite-size piece of the restaurant’s torta fritta—an airy pillow of lightly salted fried dough—may be what carnivores eat in heaven.
Fortunately for vegetarians, there are plenty of magical three-ingredient small vegetable plates such as marinated beets with sultanas and pistachios or escarole with hazelnuts and mustard vinaigrette, as well as simple pizzas such as the classic “Bufala” with buffalo mozzarella, tomato and olive oil.
Adventurous eaters might also enjoy the bruschetta selection, which includes a sweet-salty pairing of unctuous Talleggio and soft roasted grapes and a lamb’s tongue bruschetta with salsa verde. The pizza menu also features intriguing combinations, such as guanciale with fior di latte mozzarella, tomato and fennel pollen.
With this new restaurant, Ethan Stowell pays homage to the salumeria, a huge tradition in the Italian gastronomic hotspot of Parma, known for its prosciutto di Parma (aka Parma ham). Bar Cotto joins Stowell’s other restaurants—the aforementioned Anchovies & Olives, Tavolàta, How to Cook a Wolf, Rione XIII and Staple & Fancy Mercantile—in celebrating different aspects of Italian cuisine, but always with simple, fresh ingredients and meticulous preparation. Last spring, Stowell also opened Ballard Pizza Company, his first venture in “fast food refined.”