Sexy Food: Il Corvo

A man, a dream and some sexy pasta gadgets.

Do you know what’s sexy? Pursuing your passion — especially when you buck the trend to do it. 

Generally, America has much less of a work/life balance than Europe. When I lived in Italy, the country virtually shut down for the month of August so that everyone could take hard-earned vacations with their families. The concept of “staycations” had yet to take root, and people went so far as to hole up in their flats, pretending to be in luxe destinations like Sardinia just so their neighbors wouldn’t think they could not afford to travel. 

While that degree of mandatory vacationing is a little gauche, so is the fact that most of the people I know in Seattle today have gobs of unspent vacation time because their employers simply cannot afford to let them go in today’s shriveled economy. Now, multiply that lack of time off exponentially and you have the restaurant world.

You wanna be a chef? Well, slide into your Dickies and Crocs, shell out $50k for culinary school and be prepared to work 16-hour days for what amounts to a teacher’s salary on diuretics. For a lucky (and determined) few, glory and notoriety wait at the end of the crimson path of blood, bones and butter, but the vast majority of chefs can look forward to ever-shrinking bottom lines, a trail of failed relationships, and enough back problems to warrant daily visits to the local marijuana dispensary.

The cutting edge of the culinary world is thinner than the sliver of razor-shaved garlic in Goodfellas. The glamour of late-night parties and chef-as-celeb hero worship is on one side, but the dark reality of toil without the spoils typically associated with the “can-do” Americana ethos lies on the other.

So, when Chef Mike Easton — formerly of Lecosho — decided to carve a new notch into his apron strings with his budding venture, Il Corvo Pasta, the Seattle food scene took notice. Here was a man who had helmed some of the busiest restaurants in Seattle during their heyday.

Now, he’s taking a step back by serving one pasta lunch per day — and doing it economically without a lot of fuss. Easton now works “normal” hours from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., serving lunch out of Procopio Gelateria located on the Pike Place Market Hillclimb.

His pastas are handmade, using a variety of antique pasta-making tools he’s acquired over the years on trips to Italy, and they are all priced at $8.18 per serving. On a typical day, he comes in at 5 a.m. to make the three different pasta doughs, and then pops up to the market to see what is seasonal and abundant with which to dress the pasta. Then, he returns to roll out the dough and prep the sauces, frequently using no more than three well-chosen ingredients.

While the pasta rests, he prepares for the steady influx of lunch customers that include a healthy mix of nearby office workers, market tourists and an ever-growing faction of Italians-in-the-know who make the journey from far-flung spots like the Eastside for an authentic taste of home.

In addition to the daily offering of three pastas, Easton has a few pet projects. He makes his own mortadella, which is speckled with sweet Sicilian pistachios and tastes more like a foie gras terrine than a mélange of forcemeat. He also hand-crafts the best amaro I’ve tasted this side of the Atlantic, which he will soon legally serve — once the Liquor Control Board decides to bestow a beer and wine license upon Il Corvo.

After three months of service, Il Corvo has settled into a steady, comfortable cadence that gives Easton the opportunity to do what he does best — make killer Tuscan pasta. The noodles are al dente, thick and toothsome, exactly as they would be in Italy. The portions might seem a little small by American standards, but they are on par with those served in Europe, and Easton, with the help of his wife Victoria, spent a good deal of time settling on the proper serving size/plate ratio.

Besides, this way you have room for a gelato to top off a great lunch — something that will improve anyone’s afternoon. At the end of the day, Easton relishes the fact that he gets to go home to his toddler daughter — something no dad should have to miss, regardless of his line of work.

Il Corvo | 1501 Western Avenue, Suite 300, Seattle | (206) 622-4280

* Open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.