A chef with a vision, Brian Clevenger serves up fresh pasta, seafood, veggies and more at new spot in West Seattle
By Lindsay Peyton
West Seattle chef Brian Clevenger has a vision.
He wants every neighborhood to have a top-notch restaurant that serves homemade pasta and fresh seafood – and he’s ready to do his part in making that dream a reality.
Clevenger has already achieved success with Vendemmia and East Anchor Seafood in Madrona and about a month ago, opened the doors to his new place in his own neighborhood, Raccolto, 4147 California Ave SW.
“I want people to have the most simplistic approach to pasta, meat, seafood and have a beautiful product,” he said. “It’s healthy, it’s sustainable and it’s at a price point where people can go more than a couple times a year.”
In fact, the plates of pasta and dinners served up at Raccolto are reasonably priced by most standards and the restaurant is already bringing in a crowd to the contemporary, cozy spot with an open kitchen, located just past the Junction.
The menu rotates daily and includes items like baby beets served with whipped ricotta, pistachio and orange, and Dungeness crab with apple, fennel and snap pea. There’s rigatoni with smoked mussels, potatoes and pesto and tagliatelle with black trumpet mushrooms and crème fraiche.
Pork chops are served with onions, medjool dates, escarole and hazlenuts – or try whole roasted branzino with capers, herbs and brown butter.
Clevenger oversees every aspect of the operation, ensuring that all dishes are top notch.
“Why are some restaurants just better than others?” he asks. “It’s those little things – and we’re 100 percent dedicated to that. We care. We want our guests to have the best.”
Clevenger said he and his staff constantly work to improve the experience. “We’re getting better every day, which is our goal,” he said. “I’m happy with our progress, but we’re not done yet. We’re learning our space, and we’re learning about our guests.”
He hopes to continue to open new restaurants and spread the gospel of supporting local farmers, hunters and fishermen, a value he gained in childhood.
Clevenger was raised in Anacortes – and farmed, hunted and fished alongside his grandfather.
“That’s always been a focal point in my life,” he said. “And it gave me a great appreciation for our food and where it comes from.”
His first job was as a prep cook at a restaurant at age 16. He learned how to prepare food on the job, without any prior kitchen experience.
He then studied culinary formerly at the Art Institute and received a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and restaurant management.
Clevenger traveled to France after graduation, where he worked for almost a year at a restaurant with two Michelin stars.
“I learned a lot in culinary school, but when you go abroad, you don’t have any distractions,” he said. “I learned attention to detail. And it added to my fundamental respect for the farmer, the fisherman and the hunter.”
His next move was to San Francisco, where he spent a year working at Delfina, before returning to Seattle. He served as chef at two Ethan Stowell restaurants before deciding to venture out on his own.
And he’s glad to be running a restaurant now in West Seattle. “There’s nothing like this over here,” he said. “There’s a lot of great food – but nothing like what we do. And I like to be able to walk to work.”
For this column, Clevenger is sharing his recipe for Cacio e Pepe, a pasta dish he serves with butter, black pepper, sea salt,and a hefty sprinkling of cheese.
“It’s so simple – just past made here, and parmesan,” he said.
He also shared his pasta recipe:
Cacio e Pepe
10 oz fresh pasta
4 oz pecorino romano (grated)
3 tablespoons Pulugra Butter (unsalted)
Course Black Pepper
Boil salted water in a large pot. Add pasta and cook for two minutes. In a separate pan, heat butter and six ounces pasta water. Add pasta and cook for another one to two minutes on high heat. Stir in half of the grated cheese and season with a very generous portion of cracked black pepper and salt. Adjust consistency of sauce with the remainder of the pasta water. Plate and garnish with the remaining cheese.
Basic Pasta Recipe
4 cups semolina flour
2 cups all purpose flour
8 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Combine all dry ingredients in KitchenAid mixing bowl. In a separate bowl add egg yolks, whole eggs, half of the warm water and olive oil. On low speed in the electric mixer, combine dry ingredients with dough hook. Slowly add in egg, water and oil mixture. Add remaining half-cup warm water slowly until dough begins to form (you may not need entire amount). Remove from bowl and fold dough over itself using your palms until a tight ball forms. Wrap dough ball in plastic, refrigerate for at least 45 minutes prior to using.
Method with no electric mixer:
Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl and form a mound. In a separate bowl combine the whole eggs, yolks, half the water and olive oil. Slowly add the mixture to the mound of dry ingredients mixing with a fork. Once combined, begin slowly adding the remainder of the water. Begin folding the dough over itself using the palm of you hands. Once combined, wrap in plastic and put in the cooler for at least 45 minutes.