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March 14, 2013 at 6:00 AM

A last Salute to Casa d’Italia

Casa D'Italia

So many people have already thanked Anthony Donatone for the memories of things they can’t forget: Sinatra in the air and pasta with homemade meatballs on the plate. His wife Angeli’s cookies and ricotta cheesecakes. The meals Donatone served them at Casa d’Italia on their first dates, on Valentine’s Day, at their wedding receptions.

The cozy Italian restaurant in Ravenna recently closed after 12 years in business. Donatone is now working as banquet and catering director at Ristorante Picolinos in Ballard, where he’s been reunited with Raffaele Calise, Luciano Busilacchi, and other old colleagues from the well-loved trattoria Salute.

“There must be five or six guys, we all worked together… the laughter is incredible,” he said. He’s working on menus, catering parties, overseeing wine tastings and olive oil tastings… and also hoping to open another place of his own, potentially closer to home in Edmonds.

“I like that little coastal waterfront town feel. My boys go to Westgate Elementary, and I just love that area,” he said.

He’s been “honored” and overwhelmed by support from colleagues and customers since closing the New York-style restaurant, and glad that he was swiftly invited into Picolinos. Still, “I can’t tell you how I miss the place. I put my heart and soul in there for 12 years,” he said. It was a second home as much as a business, full of memories and memorabilia from family members who have since passed away.

In the end, though, the small site didn’t pencil out — the economy took its toll, a month-to-month lease and deferred maintenance caused issues, Angeli told the Ravenna Blog — and “I think I maxed out the space,” he said.

Customers stuck notes in the door after the closure: “Can you cater at my house?” “If I want 5 cheesecakes, will they freeze?”

“I said I’ll make whatever I can…” he said. “I love what I do. It’s not just a job for me, it’s life.”

He’s still got his framed Sinatra record and other mementos, and he’s hanging on to them. Maybe, as the song goes, the best is yet to come.

“I was blessed,” he said.

“I’m still blessed.”

Photo by Nancy Leson

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