“What happened to Restaurant Geneva on 8th Ave?” writes Catherine Hardy. “I drove by the other day and saw a sign for a new Italian place. Geneva was wonderful — have the owners maybe opened something else?”
Well, that depends on who you mean when you say “the owners,” Catherine. If you’re talking about Swiss chef Hanspeter Aebersold (who bought the former Reiner’s restaurant from Reiner Grubel in 1995 and later renamed the fine-dining restaurant Geneva), he and his wife and business partner, Margret, retired and are living in Mukilteo. If you’re talking about chef/owner Sevala Kulovic, the Bosnian who bought the place from the Aebersold’s nearly a year ago, he’s since moved to San Francisco.
As for the new Italian restaurant? Presto-change-O: it’s now called Rustica Ristorante, and the current owner/chef is Ashok Mehta. This news comes from Svetlana Grigorian, who worked for the Abersolds since shortly after they opened Geneva. I got off the phone with her about an hour ago and she told me today marks Rustica’s “soft opening.” They expect to have a grand opening once they get their new awning up (ETA: late this week).
Svetlana calls herself a jack-of-all-trades. She works as the restaurant’s dining room manager, waitress and wine steward. She explained that the new owner “had a couple of Italian restaurants in Olympia, and studied Italian cooking in Italy,” and told me that though the ownership has changed, the elegant interior decor has not — though they “put up some grapes” (and I don’t think she meant they were canning jelly). I always loved that cozy Old World dining room — one of the quietest and prettiest in the city. “We’re known as Seattle’s best-kept secret,” Svetlana says, “and we don’t like that. We want to be known!”
So, here’s what you should know: Rustica is located at 1106 Eigth Ave., Seattle, 206-624-2222. They’re open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 5pm till closing and the menu looks pretty classic. There’s antipasti ($6-$11) including sauteed prawns and beef carpaccio, plus soups and salads ($6-$9), and yes, they’re serving lobster bisque alla Geneva (loved that!). Primi piatti includes pastas and risotto ($15-$25), and main courses offer everything from pollo puttanesca ($16) to to vitello saltimboca ($23) to filetto di manzo (with Madiera sauce, $28) They’ve got a liquor license, Svetlana’s working on adding some Italian wines to the list, and if you go check it out, let me know what you think, OK?