Pizza flies as Jordan Neff throws pies at the original Big Mario’s on Capitol Hill in May 2012. Photo by Ronald Holden
Pizza flies as Jordan Neff throws pies at the original Big Mario’s on Capitol Hill in May 2012. Photo by Ronald Holden

As the harvest moon comes and goes, contractors around town are working overtime to get a very specific category of project ready in time for the make-or-break month of December. I’m talking, of course, about new restaurants. 

Mom-and-pop joints take what they can get, but the big boys with clout want to be ready no later than early November so they can set sail on their cruises before the make-or-break end-of-year holidays. 

Berthed next to the Caffè Vita on Lower Queen Anne, in the space that once housed Panos Kleftikos (815 Fifth Ave. N.), is a spanking-new Big Mario’s pizzeria, named for Mario Vellotti. Not pure Neapolitan, but a New York-New Haven variation called “apizza,” with spicier toppings and sold by the slice. (The New Haven pronunciation is something like “a-BEETS,” but what would they know about pizza at Yale?) 

The first Big Mario’s opened three years ago on Capitol Hill, next to the Caffè Vita on the Pike-Pine corridor. Vellotti was running an Italian food-importing company in Georgetown and counted the Via Tribunali chain among his best customers. 

But Tribunali is authentic Neapolitan, with all the mystique of a wood-fired oven certified by an industry board of examiners, with more of a sit-down-for-dinner clientele. Big Mario’s, like Vellotti himself, is large, loud and brash; get your slices at the front counter (as they come out of the Baker’s Pride ovens) and take a stool at the bar in back. 

The new spot is being put together by the same crew, Guild Seattle, that just launched the exquisitely detailed Ernest Loves Agnes on the eastern slope of Capitol Hill; they’re hoping Big Mario will be ready for its close-up by the end of October. 

The carpenters and finishers are taking full advantage of the fine weather, keeping the front door open on the last sunny afternoons of the season. They’re from Dovetail, the general contractor who does the build-out on all Ethan Stowell’s restaurants. 

Yes, yes, another Ethan Stowell restaurant, to go along with Frelard Pizza Co. (4010 Leary Way N.W.). This one’s called Bramling Cross (5205 Ballard Ave. N.W.), taking over the space occupied for a decade by the Portalis wine bar. It’s going to be a cozy tavern — although, with a half-dozen skylights, there’s plenty of illumination as well. 

Bramling, by the way, is a particularly aromatic variety of hops, originally from England. 

Watching the Dovetail crew install gas ranges, dishwashing equipment and beer lines last week was Bramling chef Michael Gifford. Originally from Jersey, he moved west and picked up work at Painted Table (92 Madison St.), then moved to Eva (formerly at 2227 N. 56th St.). 

It turns out he and Stowell had just traded places, and when Stowell opened his original restaurant, Union, Gifford was his first hire. More recently, Gifford has been running the tight little kitchen at How to Cook a Wolf (2208 Queen Anne Ave. N.) on Queen Anne.

Another newcomer for Queen Anne: The Other Coast (12 Mercer St.), the third in a chain-let of sandwich shops, setting up shop in the former home of Krua Thai Family Kitchen. 


Heading north

Pay attention to the cluster of restaurants along Northwest 70th Street in Ballard. In the beginning, there was only Delancey pizzeria (1415 N.W. 70th St.) and the Honoré Artisan Bakery (1413 N.W. 70th St.). Then came The Pantry (a cooking school, recently expanded, at 1417 N.W. 70th St.) and Essex (a little bar, at 1421 N.W. 70th St.), followed by The Fat Hen (breakfast and lunch, at 1418 N.W. 70th St.) and, now, Brunswick & Hunt (1480 N.W. 70th St.), a gastropub.

It’s been a two-year slog to get from concept to opening.

Brothers Seth and Barry Rogel are the owners: Barry is the one who took over his family’s DeLuxe Bar & Grill on Capitol Hill; Seth had run the Athenian at the Pike Place Market. 

Not far away, in Laurelhurst, there’s a double-barreled Huxley-Wallace property a-building at 3600 N.E. 45th St. Great State is planned as a classic burger shop, the first in a planned chain around town. 

Next door, Saint Helens will be a more traditional neighborhood brasserie, serving pastries and espresso during the day and family-style dinners at night. Ride along the Burke-Gilman Trail, park your bike and sidle up to the fire pit for a bistro supper. 

Some other Huxley-Wallace restaurants include Quality Athletics (121 S. King St.) in Pioneer Square and Westward (2501 N. Northlake Way) on Lake Union. 

Up on my favorite North End corner of Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th Street, chef Eric Donnelly is putting the finishing touches on Flint Creek Cattle Co., a 3,400-square-foot restaurant spot that will seat some 120 guests. 

Donnelly has made a name for himself with seafood, notably RockCreek (4300 Fremont Ave. N.) in Fremont; Flint Creek, on the other hand (which, in Montana, flows parallel to RockCreek), will be a beef emporium. 

Also in Fremont, the snout-to-tail piggy palace known as Le Petit Cochon (701 N. 36th St.) will celebrate its second birthday at the end of October. Chef Derek Ronspies will celebrate by offering a free tomato course to every diner. 

RONALD HOLDEN is a restaurant writer and consultant who blogs at and He recently published “Home Grown Seattle: 101 True Tales of Local Food & Drink.” To comment on this column, write to