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Sunday, September 5, 1999 < Prev Next >

Baccano adds Italian spice to Belltown mix

A pair of local entrepreneurs plan to give Belltown diners the experience of an authentic, family-style Italian restaurant, Seattle-style -- that is, with a little help from a sophisticated database system.

Brent Christie and Roberto De Angelis -- who both worked on the revitalization of the Ritz Carlton hotel chain -- are spending $2 million renovating a former antique store on Western Avenue, two blocks north of Pike Place Market.

The restaurant, set to open in mid-November, will be called Baccano. De Angelis translates the word literally as "life and noise," or more expansively as "to enliven the senses and nourish the soul."

Helping nourish the restaurant is a group of four investors led by Visio Corp. co-founder and current executive vice president Ted Johnson and his wife, Linda Johnson, Christie said. The new Visio headquarters on Elliott Avenue, where the company moved in March, is a block away from the Baccano site.

Johnson, who has known De Angelis socially for several years, said, "Linda and I have always had an interest in developing a restaurant, doing something closer to the community than high-tech and banking, which is Linda's career. We asked (Christie and De Angelis) what it would take."

As far as the selection of a location a stone's throw from Johnson's office, he remarked, "It wasn't that it needed to be close to Visio. The excitement of what's going on in Belltown drew us to the area."

Christie and De Angelis are perhaps best known locally for their mass-market Italian fast-food concept, Pasta Ya Gotcha, which has seven eateries in the Seattle area and a thriving corporate-location division. But Christie notes Baccano will bear no relationship to the quick-pasta chain.

"We're not the `Pasta Ya Gotcha' guys," Christie said. "This concept is much more high-end."

Instead, Baccano will draw on Christie and De Angelis' long work history in the luxury hotel food and beverage industry, as well as on two Italian restaurants Capri-born De Angelis operated in New Orleans, Andrea's and Spunto. The pair are partners in a hotel-management consulting firm, PRA Inc.

The idea for Baccano grew in part from the pair's own disillusionment at the service they received at various white-tablecloth restaurants around town. Christie recalled one visit to an unnamed restaurant where, though they had a reservation, his party was greeted with a surly, "Let me see where I'm gonna put you."

At Baccano, waitstaff will be prepared to do more than greet reservation-making customers warmly. Thanks to an advanced tracking system created for the restaurant by Seattle software developers Automated Retail Systems, servers should be able to greet their patrons by name and make suggestions on dishes, based on a compilation of what the visitor has ordered in the past.

The system will capture detailed point-of-sale information about what customers are purchasing, and then compile that information in a database for easy access on future visits. This "customer profiling" process is similar to the one used by many grocery stores, which allows it to print coupons for shoppers based on their spending habits.

Christie noted the system will also allow customers to log their favorite wines or dishes into the record, and then order "the usual" ahead of time, to be ready when they arrive. Fixed-price menu items will allow a customer to pay over the phone when the reservation is made, so that a meal can proceed without the customer having to dig for a credit card at the table.

While the back-office technology will help create the friendly ambiance, Baccano's decor is the other part of the equation. The restaurant's design is meant to transport Seattleites to a small Italian town. The look is a collaboration between architectural firm Merrick Lentz in Bellevue and Issaquah interior designer Alexa Milton, who recently designed the new Chan's restaurant in Issaquah.

Materials used in the restaurant emphasize marble, limestone, and cracked plaster with brick peeking through, Milton said. Murals and tall marble columns will take full advantage of the space's 16-foot ceilings.

"You'll feel like you're going inside, and then back out again, into the piazza," she said. "It'll be a fun, family-style restaurant."

The interior walls will be covered with Italian-style faux storefronts to convey the feel of an Italian street scene, and the restaurant's 210 seats will be organized around a main area with the feel of an Italian piazza. A smaller "vinoteca" wine bar area will seat 40.

Puget Sound Business Journal

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