One longtime Seattle pizzeria is switching hands. The owners of Off the Rez — Seattle’s first and only Native American food truck (and now U District cafe) — have purchased the two remaining locations of Via Tribunali in Queen Anne and Capitol Hill. The menu will remain largely the same, but co-owner Cecilia Rikard tells Eater Seattle that there could be some collaborations between the two businesses, perhaps even fry bread pizza at some point.
Via Tribunali has been a Seattle mainstay for many years, serving its popular Neapolitan pizza since it opened in 2004 with Caffe Vita founder Mike McConnell and his wife Liz at the helm. Though the restaurant had expanded over the past 16 years (even opening outposts in Portland and New York at one point), the imprint has since shrunk to Seattle only. Its remaining two locations in the city had been closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but have now reopened for to-go orders under the new ownership. The Georgetown restaurant closed permanently.
McConnell’s brother, Mark, is the co-owner of Off the Rez, so Via Tribunali is staying in the family — but there may be a few changes. Rikard says she’s tweaked the recipes for the polpette (meatballs), lasagna, and bolognese to add some “oomph,” and is using her and Mark’s catering experience to add more services for the restaurant. There will also be more rotating specials that focus on seasonal ingredients.
Off the Rez has gained a strong following since it opened in 2011 as a food truck, serving up fluffy fry breads influenced by the traditions of McConnell’s mother, who grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana. It opened its new U District cafe last fall at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum, and expanded the menu to incorporate some precolonial food, including wild rice bowls with braised bison, to provide a fuller scope of Native American cuisine.
Though McConnell and Rikard are not planning to incorporate any Off the Rez menu items at Via Tribunali, there may be some pop-up collaborations down the line, either bringing the food truck to a Via Tribunali location or hosting an Off the Rez menu directly out of one of the kitchens.
“We’re also planning to have some fun specials on those days like a fry bread pizza,” says Rikard. “Think a fry bread pizza pocket.”