Seattle restaurateur and chef Brendan McGill announced today that he’s opening a trattoria serving neo-Neapolitan pizza, antipasti, gelato, and roasted meat, seafood, and vegetables in the former space of Bar Taglio on 1st Avenue in Downtown Seattle.
McGill originally opened Bar Taglio, a pizza bar, in 2019 to cater to the downtown office crowd. But when the pandemic started, tech workers started working from home, and Bar Taglio went through a series of pivots to try to stay afloat, the most recent of which was a Roman-style slice shop.
McGill hopes Bar Solea, which opens November 1, will serve as a neighborhood restaurant for people who live in the area, while offering a menu exciting enough to make it a worthwhile destination for diners from other parts of town. Earlier this year, McGill turned Hitchcock, his original Bainbridge Island restaurant, into Seabird, an ambitious dine-in only seafood restaurant, in a similar shift away from the pandemic-era focus on quick service and takeout.
“Bar Taglio was exactly what I wanted it to be for four months in 2019,” McGill says. “I want a clean vision and start over with a whole restaurant the way it was the first time I opened that space.”
Joseph Walter, a chef who’s worked for McGill at his Bainbridge restaurants Bruciato and Seabird, will be the chef de cuisine at Bar Solea, and he and McGill wrote a menu based on classic Italian flavors, with creative PNW twists, for the restaurant.
The pizza at Bar Solea will be Neo-Neapolitan, fairly similar to classic Neapolitan pizza, but with tweaks like using some local whole-grain flour in the dough and cooking it at a slightly lower temperature for a crispier crust. Each pizza will be stretched and baked to order. The tomato base of each pizza will be made with Solea tomatoes, the variety used at the best pizza restaurants in Naples. The toppings include classic Italian ingredients like prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, coppa, and soppressata, along with some seasonal PNW ingredients like lobster mushrooms. McGill says Walter is one of the few chefs he knows who’s as good at making pizza as any other type of food.
Antipasti will include salumi that McGill and Walter recently cured using meat from the mangalitsa hogs McGill’s raises on his farm on Bainbridge Island, as well as other snacks like meatballs in tomato sauce, burrata with roasted squash, and albacore crudo with beets, oil-cured olives, and pickled red onion.
The forno (oven) menu will include roasted rockfish, wine-cooked clams, lamb chops served with anchovy vinaigrette, and locally raised rabbit dish with mushroom-tomato ragu, pearl onions, and pancetta lardons.
McGill, a longtime student of Italian cuisine, is also using Bar Solea to nerd out about ancient Roman cuisine, which was developed before Italian colonizers brought tomatoes and peppers back from the new world, a time when fish sauce was widely used to season food in Europe. An example on the opening menu is a roasted carrot dish with anchovy garum (Roman fish sauce), golden raisins, cumin, and pine nuts.
Tony Lombardi, the beverage director of McGill’s restaurant group, compiled a list of Italian wines (mostly from the Campania and Veneto regions) to pair with pizza for the bar, and Bar Taglio’s Negroni on tap (which McGill calls a “Nitroni”) is still on the beverage menu, along with a variety of spritzes, Italian amaros, Italian vermouths, house-made gelato, and espresso drinks. While Bar Solea is meant to be a dinner spot, McGill wants people coming out of the nearby Seattle Art Museum or going to a sports game to also be able to pop-in for an espresso, gelato, or a shot of amaro for a pick-me-up.
Restaurants in the neighborhood around Bar Taglio were among the hardest hit when the pandemic started. Now, McGill says he sees a quiet renaissance as downtown slowly starts to awaken from its pandemic-induced slumber.
“Hopefully the timing is right for this regrowth, because somebody has to do it,” McGill says. “It’s the heart of Seattle.”
Bar Solea is located at 822 1st Ave. It will be open open 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Reservations will be available on Bar Solea’s website.