Chicago-style pizza is known for its thick, buttery crust that serves as a large bowl containing a voluminous amount of cheese, chunky tomato sauce and a myriad of other tasty ingredients. Deep-dish has one bottom crust. Its big brother, stuffed pizza, has both a bottom and a top crust, and is often referred to as a pizza pie.
Sightings of these gastronomic treats are fairly rare outside of Chicagoland. Chicago ex-pats Grace and Dave Downing are working hard to change that. They opened Tavolino’s in Totem Lake’s Totem Square six months ago. It serves Chicago-style pizza, Chicago Dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, submarine sandwiches and pasta dinners.
Tavolino’s is the sixth pizzeria in which the Downings have worked, but it is the first one that they have owned. It fulfills a lifelong dream of restaurant ownership that they have had since first meeting at Papa Luigi’s in Chicago.
After visiting a relative in Woodinville and falling in love with the Pacific Northwest, the Downings packed up and moved from the Windy City to Cottage Lake in 2004 where they are raising their three boys, aged 12, 10 and 2. Upon arrival, Grace put her college degree from Northwestern University to work as the activity director for the Pacific Regent retirement community in Bellevue.
But she missed the restaurant business and began scouting out a location that could bring authentic Chicago-style pizza to the Eastside. She was drawn to Kirkland by its welcoming, small town feel and sense of community. A good deal on leased space in Totem Square helped seal the deal.
Grace, Dave and her manager Jay Reach are at the restaurant full-time. Jay moved from New York to the Northwest less than a year ago. He knows the true meaning of good food. He started as a delivery driver. Grace saw potential and quickly promoted him to assistant manager. She loves his passion and desire to learn. He invented the Chicken Parmesan Pizza that is now on the menu, and is working on other creations.
Grace has worked collaboratively with other Totem Square merchants on cross-marketing opportunities. The Airlock (video game parlor) and Laughs Comedy Spot are two neighbors whose customers tend to be pizza lovers.
The business is primarily take-out and delivery. Catering for functions is available. Two outdoor tables provide a convenient spot for diners to use when the weather is nice.
The pizza dough and the sauce are made fresh. Many of the recipes go back three generations through Dave’s Sicilian family. Regulars are used to calling ahead. They know that a 14” stuffed pizza weighing in at over 10 pounds takes 35 minutes to bake into the ultimate Chicago-style comfort food!
Tavolino’s 12085 124th Ave NE Kirkland, WA 98034 425.825.1600 www.tavolinoschicago.com