It all started with a negroni~

Rushing from the airport to a downtown hotel, only to quickly change clothes, grab a second cab and hightail it to a meeting is not necessarily the best way to be introduced to a city. Such was my first impression of Seattle last weekend.

Being a new author is turning out to be as stressful as it is fun. Luckily, my first Seattle “rush” landed me at Bisato, a cool Italian restaurant where Chef Scott Carsberg has created an inspired menu of cicchetti (think tapas ~ Venetian-style).  I was there to meet Ronald Holden, creator of the food blog Cornichon, to discuss my book Beyond the Pasta. I was at the bar mere moments before Ronald came bounding through the door carrying a copy of my book under his arm.  I am sure we looked the pair…a copy of my book under each of our arms as the waiter sat us at a window table.

“What would you gentlemen like to drink?”

“I always get a negroni when I am here,” said Ronald as he unpacked his pen and pad of paper.

“Make it two,” I said to the waiter.

The negroni (pronounced “nay- GROAN-ee”) is an Italian cocktail created in the early 1900s in Florence. It is a martini-style cocktail made with gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari bitters. I enjoy the strong, bitter flavor of Campari – the last time I had Campari, it was mixed with Coke at a small pizzeria in the small Tuscan town of Radda, in the Chianti region. It was good then, but I do enjoy it more when mixed with gin!

Ronald ordered a plate of freshly sliced stack of Prosciutto di Parma and within moments I was no longer rushed, I was in Italy doing what Italians like to do best – sit down at a table, have a cocktail, order some food, and take time getting to know someone.

We talked of Italy, food, wine, our mutual interest in my book and the Italian experiences that it reveals. In no time we were laughing, ordering a second round of negronis and sampling a delicious cicchetti of sautéed calf’s liver on a bed of onions caramelized to sweet, golden perfection and drizzled with some balsamic vinegar. Yum, it was so Italian!

Leaving Bisato, after parting ways with Ronald (“Ciao, ciao, ciao!”), I was again rushed into a cab, where I called Richard to meet me in front of the hotel, so he could jump in and go with me to meet my publisher, her copy editor and her friend, plus another Gemelli Press author (Jan Vallone), and all of their husbands. Mamma Mia! What a party!

The copy editor’s nephew recently reopened a Seattle hot spot from years past, Vito’s. We had a great evening – lots of wine, food, music, and laughter – all the while seated in the red velvet ceiling-ed, 1950s dining room/bar, complete with a piano player seated at a baby grand tickling the ivories with all your favorite piano-bar tunes. Hmmm, I think I noticed the Rat Pack sitting in a dark corner booth.

When you go to Vito’s, make sure you ask to see “The Cougar Room.” You will be led back to a private room where, behind glass, you will not find a “cougar” from Wisteria Lane. Instead, you will find Barbara, the stuffed cougar, restfully perched on a rock looking like a display in a Natural History museum from the 1950s. She is “PURR-fect!”

That is how my first night in Seattle went – from negronis and Ronald to pasta and Barbara.

I think I love Seattle’s take on Italy!

Ciao e a presto~


About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.