into popular spot
Patrons enjoy dinner at Bizzaro. (Photo by Patrice Raplee)
Soft umber light and the sound of distant conversation drift out of
a tall open window as twilight descends on Seattle's Wallingford district.
The window frames several couples seated around white-clothed tables.
They are sipping wine and sampling tidbits, while gazing around at the
interior of the restaurant. A giant cello is suspended from the ceiling
surrounded by red velvet and oriental lamps with hanging window frames
of various motifs to accent the eclectic décor. The seating consists
of everything from an old theater row to a lovely wooden church pew.
Diversely styled chairs and tables are graced overhead by chandeliers
and other objects of art, while the bathrooms display faithfully painted
reproductions of Alice in Wonderland and the Jetsons. Welcome to Bizzarro;
Seattle's extolled Italian and Mediterranean café located on
1307 N. 46th Street.
Bizzarro's inception began 15 years ago when proprietor David Nast
rented an old garage building and set to work transforming it into what
would become a unique and laudable gourmet restaurant. Nast recalls
working on the restaurant before it opened when a friendly woman by
the name of Kathleen Caldwell approached him and asked, "When are
you going to open?" Nast answered, "Tomorrow." Caldwell
said, "Well, I think I'll stick around and give you a hand; I'll
try it out and see if it works." She stayed for nine years. "Caldwell
was a key influential mentor to Bizzarro, states Nast. "Bizzarro's
theme and quirkiness started with her." Originally a waitress,
Caldwell would adlib poetry, sing, make suggestions on the ever-changing
décor and keep the customers happy and the business running smoothly.
She occasionally comes by for a visit and an impromptu performance.
The magical Caldwell was not the last to help shape Bizzarro; in fact
all of the employees helped to shape the environment and culture that
evolved into the popular landmark. Waitress Kristen Hong and waiter
Josh Petersen are seasoned employees of Bizzarro and add their own brand
Both Hong and Petersen are well-known for their warm and friendly dispositions
and the unbelievable ability to recognize a customer a year later and
remember what occasion they were celebrating! The two employees share
in many other responsibilities surrounding Bizzarro and definitely have
their own styles and customer following.
Chefs Douglas Pletcher and Christian Turner are the ingenious culprits
that purvey the luscious Italian and Mediterranean-based cuisine. Their
consistent scrutiny and quality of Bizzarro's victuals draw patrons
from different states, as well as the long-time local customers. One
patron commented that, "Bizzarro is the restaurant you immediately
think of when you want to go to dinner with friends, or when you want
to show off a really cool Seattle restaurant to out-of-town-guests and
not have to worry that they'll like the food."
The delightfully designed menus feature colorful characters such as
a smiling alligator wearing a top hat and tails offering a delicious
Cannelloni and Risotto. A Bizzarro staple for many regular customers
is the succulent Forest Floor Frenzy. This tantalizing rich delicacy
is a marriage of exotic mushrooms, roasted walnuts and roasted garlic
in a sherry cream sauce with rigatoni; absolutely not to be missed!
The Tuscan Lamb Shank with a sheer ecstasy sauce of a fig demiglace
and the Stuffed Pork Tenderloin are just a few of the entrees that will
hold you captive.
The wine selection is in good company with the fare; Californian, Italian
and a few Washington and Australian medleys are presented at reasonable
prices. There are also a few fine ports and brews available for non-wine
consumers. To round out the entire sumptuous experience, is a dessert
that is divinely intoxicating; Bizarro's sublime Bananas Foster. This
rendition is probably the best in the northwest.
Nast and his wife Leslie spend a lot of time working on Bizzarro's
and their fondness for their customers and the artistically madcap restaurant
is apparent in every detail; especially the fine art. The couple expanded
the artistic theme by commissioning renowned Washington artist and personal
friend Peter Juvonen to paint several visual renderings for the walls.
Juvonen created the "Bizzarro Man" and the figure is so popular
that he is currently doing a show entirely of Bizzarro's theme art at
the Capolavori Gallery in Seattle.
The Nasts change the interior of the restaurant on a frequent basis
and also change the menu specials to reflect the seasonal northwest
yield. But they do not change the quality of the cuisine or the service.
They are gracious hosts to their customers and they spend a lot of time
with their three children, who also like to take a hand in the restaurant.
Nast has come a long way in 15 years as a restaurateur and he and his
wife continue to expand on new ideas for their now famous establishment.
Bizzarro is not a pretentious smorgasbord of memorabilia from an upscale,
overpriced boutique, but a comfortable and intriguing environment that
is a stanchion for extraordinary cuisine and interesting people.
For more information call (206) 545-7327.