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July 27, 2010 at 10:10 AM

Cantinetta No. 2: opening soon in old Bellevue

When Trevor Greenwood opened Cantinetta on a quiet residential corner in Wallingford, things didn’t stay quiet for long. The Italian restaurant, opened in January 2009, was a neighborhood hit, a critic’s darling and a Seattle sensation, thanks in no small part to its talented kitchen staff, short seasonal menu and spirited bar scene. Softly lit, glowing with good energy, this honeyed haunt allowed a sense of rustic romance certain to please those of us who’ve had enough industrial-design to last a lifetime. And now Greenwood and company are ready to do it all over again: this time in old Bellevue.

Cantinetta, in Wallingford, will soon have a sexy sibling — in Bellevue.

Late August is the expected opening date of the second coming of Cantinetta, now in the final stages of construction at 10038 Main Street. “We gutted it down to the gravel,” said Greenwood, describing the former home of Villa Fine Kitchen & Bath. Doing so, he said, “gave us the opportunity to build-out the way we wanted to.” It was an effort based on the don’t-mess-with-success formula, right down to the 50-seat dining room with a 12-seat bar set on maple-wood floors, culled from an old Virginia warehouse.

A second location has been on his agenda from the start said Greenwood, who will split his time between the two restaurants, working the door and the floor. In doing so, he hopes to keep the Cantinetta experience as consistent as possible, and brings to that task in Bellevue a new chef, Tomer Shneor, late of New York City, where the Israeli chef worked with Daniel Boulud and perfected his prowess with pasta during two years spent at Lidia Bastianich’s flagship restaurant, Felidia, Greenwood said.

That practice should serve him well as he works in conjunction with chef Emran Chowdhury, who will stay the course in Wallingford taking over where chef-exec Brian Cartenuto left off. Chowdhury and Shneor will share Cartenuto’s role at the two Cantinettas, where they’ll collaborate their menus and “keep a consistent product” according to Greenwood.

Eastside and West, I hope to find this Cantinetta classic, mussels puttanesca, which goes well with a Negroni when I belly up to the bar at Cantinetta.

When Cartenuto arrived from Washington D.C. in 2008 to open Cantinetta, he brought Chowdhury and pastry chef Lorna Stokes along with him. In June, Chowdhury and Stokes were married, and soon after Cartenuto parted ways with his Cantinetta crew. He heads south today, landing in Jackson, Mississippi where he’s set to take over at CHAR — a steakhouse that’s part of the Amerigo Italian restaurant group. Cartenuto told me he’ll miss Seattle, but he’s “a Southern boy at heart” and looking forward to “having carte-blanche” to revamp the steakhouse concept, focusing instead on farm-to-table dining within the Southern culinary tradition.

Meanwhile, Greenwood has highest hopes for his Bellevue branch. Having grown up on Mercer Island, he recalls time spent with his family at some of Seattle’s celebrated Italian tables, among them: il Terrazzo Carmine, il Bistro and the late Saleh al Lago. It’s those independently owned restaurants that helped forge his vision for Cantinetta, one he’s happy to export to the burgeoning Eastside.

Bellevue, Greenwood and his partners believe, “has a large market for a small, privately-owned restaurant” and a community that “wants to go to a restaurant like this, but doesn’t want to park in a parking garage or go to a mall.” Citing Main Street’s “certain charm” and Cantinetta’s walking distance from Medina and Meydenbauer Bay, he said of his prime new spot, “I wouldn’t want to go anyplace else.”

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