Chef Lisa Nakamura’s renowned Gnocchi Bar on Capitol Hill closed in late 2016 with availability of her packaged gnocchi via local markets only since then. But now her soft, pillowy potato goodness is once again on restaurant menus at Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizzeria.
Each batch of gnocchi are handmade in Seattle, almost all by Nakamura herself, a classically trained chef with fine dining stints at The Herbfarm, Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry and her own restaurant, Allium on Orcas Island, where gnocchi was a top draw.
As she has made gnocchi through the years, Nakamura refined her recipe and technique, eventually opening the casual Gnocchi Bar restaurant with a focus on simplicity and seasonality.
“Every culture has a dumpling of some sort,” Nakamura explains. “They’re labors of love and the touchstone for so many delicious childhood memories. There’s a whole lot of love that goes into each gnoccho, and I think it shows. I’ve had Italians praise them, so I’m guessing that’s a yes!”
Tutta Bella’s current gnocchi special is inspired by the bestselling Gnocchi with Meatballs which was on the Gnocchi Bar restaurant menu. Executive chef Brian Gojdics has created Tutta Bella’s own signature dish featuring Nakamura’s potato gnocchi and Tutta Bella’s extremely popular housemade meatballs and marinara with basil and Grana Padano. It is available at all five locations through May 20.
“Lisa has a passion for her art and a commitment to creating a simple, beautiful and delicious product made with love, dedication and proper technique,” says Chef Gojdics. “Her gnocchi is prepared as gnocchi should be and the result is light, fluffy potato clouds. It’s the best gnocchi produced here locally and would stack up to some of the best elsewhere, as well.”
Tutta Bella has launched with the classic potato gnocchi, made with Washington potatoes, wheat flour, fresh eggs and kosher salt. Guests can expect that future gnocchi dishes at Tutta Bella will be inspired by flavors as the seasons dictate and what’s fresh at the market and in the fields.
The partnership between Nakamura’s Gnocchi Bar (Nakamura’s company name is the same as the name of her former restaurant), and Tutta Bella began through a common cause, Seattle Children’s PlayGarden in the Central District. A friend of Nakamura’s who works at The PlayGarden knew Tutta Bella and its founder, Joe Fugere, for his generous support of her workplace.
“I was impressed by the way Tutta Bella really does seem to be part of the neighborhoods they call home,” says Nakamura. “I wanted to branch out from retailing Gnocchi Bar products in grocery stores, so I approached Tutta Bella. It’s important to me to work with people who put quality and their customers first. I felt that Tutta Bella encompassed this.”
“We have been thinking of adding gnocchi to our menu for a long time,” says Fugere, founder of Tutta Bella. “When we first learned that Lisa would begin selling to restaurants, we were very excited to talk with her. Her reputation and pedigree at The French Laundry aside, she is an amazing human being!”
Nakamura has been making gnocchi for about twenty years, always receiving a positive response when she added it to menus. At her restaurant, Allium on Orcas Island, she says guests would come in for three things: the clam chowder, the scallops and the gnocchi, but she never considered making a business out of it.
After closing Allium and returning to Seattle, Nakamura began to give gnocchi more serious thought. Gnocchi Bar evolved from pop ups to restaurant to retail, and now to restaurants again with Tutta Bella.
“We are a scratch kitchen, making all recipes by hand in each of our locations daily. The gnocchi is a rare exception, but we were blown away by the superior quality and artisan nature of Lisa’s handiwork,” Fugere explains. “We have extreme faith and trust in Lisa’s amazing talent and her wonderful support of Tutta Bella’s purpose to nourish lives by serving authentic food and love.”
This collaboration with Lisa Nakamura’s Gnocchi Bar complements Tutta Bella’s vision to offer world-class, approachable food, drink and partnerships. Recently, Tutta Bella has also created a partnership with PCC Natural Markets to sell Tutta Bella’s brand of the famous Pomodoro di Napoli (The Tomato of Naples). Tutta Bella also works with Sound Sustainable Farms on its primary sustainability focus areas of food waste diversion and using compostable and recyclable materials.