Award-winning chef Renee Erickson (the Whale Wins, Bateau) has finally named her highly anticipated Italian restaurant inside the Amazon Spheres: It’s called Willmott’s Ghost, after English horticulturist Ellen Willmott, who’s said to have made a habit of secretly planting in friends’ gardens and public spaces. While Barnacle, next to the Walrus and the Carpenter, is Erickson’s take on an Italian aperitivo bar, Willmott’s Ghost marks Erickson’s first full-fledged foray into Italian cuisine. The chef studied in Rome in college, and said in a press release, “Willmottʼs draws inspiration from the country where I first fell in love with food.”
Erickson and business partner Jeremy Price have tapped chef Marie Rutherford, currently at the Whale Wins, to oversee the kitchen, which will highlight items like Roman pizza, hand-pulled mozzarella, cheese-stuffed fried rice balls (arancini), fire-roasted Northwest vegetables, and fish and beef.
Like Barnacle, Willmott’s Ghost will also feature bites from Italy’s aperitivo tradition, which is essentially happy hour centered around spritzes, snacks (mostly fried bites), and cured meats. Willmott’s Ghost will serve daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour. The goal is still to open by summer or fall this year.
The restaurant will have a 45-seat dining room, plus room for 10 at the bar and 35 at booths and banquettes. A seasonal patio will seat 24. Willmott’s Ghost will be open to all diners, unlike Erickson’s other Amazon Spheres venture, Rana e Respo, whose three eateries — a General Porpoise doughnut cafe, a salad counter, and a sandwich shop — are available only to Amazon employees. Rana e Respo means “frog and toad” in Italian.
It’s shaping up to be a busy summer for Erickson and company, who are also working on a General Porpoise location in Laurelhurst.