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Originally published Wednesday, December 3, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Nancy Leson

Good old Abruzzi's is back

Excerpts from her blog, All You Can Eat Rick Sakoda was beside himself when he wrote to me last week with this happy news: "The much-loved...

Seattle Times food writer

Nancy Leson on KPLU

THE SEATTLE TIMES writer's commentaries on food and restaurants can be heard on KPLU-FM (88.5) at 5:30 a.m., 7:35 a.m. and 4:44 p.m. Wednesdays, and 8:30 a.m. Saturdays.

Excerpts from her blog,

All You Can Eat

Rick Sakoda was beside himself when he wrote to me last week with this happy news:

"The much-loved and sorely missed Abruzzi's pizza has been reborn in Normandy Park! Yes, it's the same Abruzzi's with that incredible and mouthwatering pizza which so many of us loved! Nick Finamore's ex-wife, Mary Lou [Sigette], and daughter DeAnn have opened their now-1-year-old pizza parlor in Normandy Park. I sincerely hope you feel this great bit of news is worthy of a short article or some sort of press. I myself have been there twice in the last week since I found out about them, and am happy to report that the pizza has that unmistakable taste, smell and delicious bite that made the original in Seattle famous. I was one of many who was devastated when the original place was torn down to make way for Niketown and I'm hoping you could please do what you could to give this incredible place a deserved shot-in-the-arm to boost the public's awareness."

So I called Rick to chat about Abruzzi's (17817 First Ave. S., Normandy Park, 206-805-1704), and here's what he told me: He got turned on to the place back in 1970 — though the pizzeria at 604 Pike St. had been around since 1956. "When I first started going here, the grandpa, Angelo, Nick's dad, ran it. He was tossing the pizzas. Then Angelo pretty much retired. It was kind of a dive, but the pizza was incredible. Nick's ex-wife waited tables there. I'd go in there so often, when I walked through the door, Nick would start making my pizza. He didn't even have to ask me what I wanted."

Rick went to Abruzzi's one last time, in 1994, the last week it was open. "I brought a pizza home and froze it. It was in my freezer for four months, and then I couldn't stand it any more. I missed that taste too much, so I ate it. I thought I'd keep it for posterity. When it was torn down, Nick was thinking about relocating, then he got ill and died of cancer," he recalls. "I've been to many pizza places since then, but it's a flavor — their plain cheese and sausage pizza — that was just phenomenal."

And that, said Rick, was that. Until a couple of weeks ago, when his wife was looking through some ads in the paper.

"She saw one for Abruzzi's, and the next day I went down to Normandy Park and ordered one. It had the same taste. The same combination of cheese and sauce and that unique texture. Mary Lou had all the old recipes! She looked at me and said, 'I remember you!' "

So, anybody else out there have fond memories of Abruzzi's? Let's hear 'em. Then do as Rick suggests, and get yourself down to Normandy Park. Mary Lou has a pizza with your name on it.

Tamarind Tree

owners to go Long

Little Saigon's Tamarind Tree — the Vietnamese sensation that had me crowing over bonbon salad and padania-leaf ice cream in my 2005 review — is branching out. Owner Tam Nguyen and his family have leased the vacant Qube space at Second and Stewart and expect to open their new restaurant in late January. They'll call the place Long (pronounced laong) — the Vietnamese word for dragon.

The menu, like the one at Tamarind Tree (1036 S. Jackson St., Seattle, 206-860-1404, tamarindtreerestaurant.com), will reflect a wide variety of foods from north and south Vietnam. At Long, they'll serve some Tamarind Tree favorites, many grilled dishes and plenty of "lighter fare," says Tam — like pomelo and scallop salad and clams steamed with beer and lemongrass. As at Tamarind Tree, prices will be modest. Tam's sister Ngoan will oversee both restaurant kitchens as executive chef, working alongside their brother Thiet, who also cooks. They hope Long will appeal to downtown dwellers, and folks who will stop in for a bite after work or before a show, and they're looking forward to introducing more of us to the to the "wonderful complex spices" used in their native cuisine, says Tam.

Improvements to the space at 1901 Second Ave. are now under way. The new 70-seat restaurant and bar will have a live jellyfish tank (for viewing, not for eating), and Tam has commissioned a Balinese stone carving of a bamboo forest that will double as a decorative partition. It's yet to arrive from Indonesia, and he's still awaiting a container from Vietnam filled with special tableware, crossing his fingers that everything will arrive in time for a January debut. The interior design is meant to reflect a strong Asian theme, says Tam, whose elegant taste is already on display at Tamarind Tree.

It's clearly been a busy time for the Nguyen family, whose 4-year-old restaurant in the Asian Plaza recently underwent a remodel. They've added a waiting area and expanded the existing patio, which now seats 40-some guests. It's sporting a solid roof and radiant heat-lamps — allowing patrons to sit outdoors during the rainy season, "which lasts nine months," Tam wryly notes.

Despite the huge success of Tamarind Tree, whose devotees are many, Tam admits he's nervous about his foray into the downtown core, given the economy and the swift failure of his new restaurant's predecessor, Qube. "We'll be facing a big challenge," he says. "Are we up to par? Are we ready? We are not formally trained to be in the restaurant business and the hospitality industry like a lot of folks with restaurants downtown."

I assured him that given what they've done with Tamarind Tree (turning a corner of a rundown stripmall into a destination dining place where the food is delicious and inexpensive and the drinks divine), he should sleep easy.

This material has been edited

for print publication.

Nancy Leson's blog excerpts

appear Wednesdays. Reach her

at 206-464-8838 or nleson@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Nancy Leson
Seattle Times food writer Nancy Leson serves up the best info and tips on Northwest food, cooking, dining and restaurants. Check her latest thoughts in her All You Can Eat blog. Her column appears each Wednesday. Her restaurant roundups appear monthly, on Fridays, in the Restaurants and Entertainment sections.
nancyleson@seattletimes.com | 206-464-8838 | Blog

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