Savory, balanced, and all-around delightful news for Walla Walla: Mike Easton’s crave-worthy Italian food is coming to town soon. On Monday, Eater reported that the best little bar in Waitsburg, Jimgermanbar, will close at the end of the month after eight years. Owner Jim German let on that he was planning a new restaurant and bar in Walla Walla to (hopefully) debut in spring 2016, and now comes word that Il Corvo and Pizzeria Gabbiano owner Easton will be in charge of the food.
Easton is known for his rotating menus, with three new pasta shapes and preparations daily at Il Corvo and a rotating menu of pizzas featuring seasonal ingredients. He’s already working on a menu for new collaboration Pastime, with plans for plenty of pasta and plenty more offerings. "I don’t want it to feel like I made a bigger Il Corvo out there," Easton adds.
He won’t be in the kitchen day to day; his role is based in consulting on the kitchen build-out, writing the menu and making seasonal changes, and overseeing the hiring of a chef. He’ll be in town plenty while build-out is happening, and a few times a month once it opens. Menu development dinners and wine dinners are on the horizon as well. Easton and German are searching for someone "super energized who can take the reins as chef and take on some meat curing projects."
Though JGB paella and schnitzel favorites won’t be joining the Italian restaurant, German promises "signature Italian family ceremony dishes"
Look for pasta classics, like ragus and cacio e pepe that can be executed year round, plus seasonal goodies. Local produce ("We’re in farm country!") and wild game will also have a strong place on the menu. Tuscan-style Venison bresaola is on Easton’s list of food goals, as are some pheasant dishes and "as much pork as we can cure." Boquerones and anchovy dishes will show up often, but fresh fish is less of a priority, considering the location.
The space will be about 50/50 restaurant and bar, with an "amazing" outdoor patio, and possibly more room devoted to the 21+ crowd. A few JGB employees will travel with the project, including Audra Wint, whom German calls "an extraordinary mixologist and pastry chef" who has had a "very creative hand" in the bar’s success for the last two years. The drinks Jimgermanbar regulars have come to love will also be present. Though JGB paella and schnitzel favorites won’t be joining the Italian restaurant, German promises "signature Italian family ceremony dishes" for large parties.
Easton and German have collaborated in the past, including on this summer’s Outstanding in the Field dinner, and Easton even consulted on Jimgermanbar’s kitchen. The two met when Easton tagged along with Mama Lil’s Peppers owner Howard Lev on a visit to wine country around 10 years ago. "He slept in a sleeping bag under my kitchen table with a space heater," German remembers. "I woke up and smelled something delicious, and there was this guy, cooking frittatas in the kitchen. He said, 'I hope you don’t mind,’ and of course I told him he was welcome to cook any time."
When Jimgermanbar opened in 2007, Easton helped celebrate the occasion by cooking a 13-course wild boar dinner. German remembers, "There was wild boar in every course. It was about four courses too many (laughs), but such an extravagant, amazing meal." Perhaps Pastime will have an equally crazy opening? Look for more news on Eater as plans develop in 2016.