Bisato has risen from the metaphorical ashes of Scott Carsberg's upscale modern Italian restaurant Lampreia in Seattle's trendy Belltown district. As a waiter famously joked when Bisato opened: "It used to be all the bigwigs. There aren't so many around anymore, so we had to start letting the smaller wigs in."
Bisato is an altogether more informal proposition than Lampreia. In a bid to pull in a wider cross section of the Seattle populace the James Beard Award-winning chef now takes his stylistic cues from the bàcaros of Venice. But there is still scope for creativity and the chef’s considerable technical skill to shine through. In full view of the customer in the restaurant's newly open kitchen, Carsberg creates refined, minimalist dishes that hinge on expertly sourced ingredients. Sliced pork loin with Venetian tuna sauce is a clever take on the Piedmontese classic vitello tonnato while a risotto of asparagus served with a savoury Parmesan ice cream is demonstrative of the kitchen's ambition.
Despite a more relaxed concept (no reservations, stripped down decor, grazing and sharing dishes), the dining room at Bisato is still run professionally. Hyun Joo Paek, Carsberg’s wife and business partner, is the principle greeter and seater and the space retains the feel of a destination restaurant.
The cocktails here are as much of a draw as the food and have made Bisato a favourite with discerning after work drinkers across the city. In much the same way as the food, Italian classics are respectfully updated resulting in pleasingly bitter, grown-up tastes that keep the city’s elite coming back for more.
Sorella, New York
Sorella is a love letter penned to Piedmont from owners Emma Hearst and Sarah Krathen. The pair's regular research trips to the northerly Italian region feed into the menu, but the restaurant's NYC location a shade east of Little Italy plays a hand too: the dishes are gutsy and comforting with big flavours. Hearst is at the stove while Krathen oversees the dining room, known for its unpretentious atmosphere, modish design and eclectic music choices. If you queue (and you almost certainly will), keep yourself entertained with something off Sorella's comprehensive list of Italian sparklers.
Piccolo Sogno, Chicago
Meaning "little dream" in Italian, Tony Priolo and Ciro Longobardo's democratic restaurant in Chicago's Fulton River District has been an unequivocal hit with critics and punters alike. Prices are moderate but everything - from the bright yellow pasta right through to the superb gelato - is made on-site daily by executive chef Priolo and his back of house team. The 400-strong wine list performs the unusual trick of being both comprehensive and approachable: Longobardo is an expert in Italian wine and has trained has staff carefully. If a table proves elusive, try sister restaurant Piccolo Sogno Due on North Clark Street, which opened earlier this year.