“Suckered” into loving breakfast~

Lola, Seattle- Beyond the Pasta, Mark leslie

My second day in Seattle started off with the unusual. In the block up the street from my Seattle hotel was a restaurant named Lola. It came recommended as a great dinner spot by my publicist, who had been to Seattle two weeks prior. “Go to Lola – one of the best meals I have had in a very long time,” she said, and she knows food.

“So Mark, what is so unusual about going to a restaurant for breakfast?” you may ask. Well, nothing. Unless when you sit down and open up a menu and see a listing for something called “Tom’s Big Breakfast” which includes “Octopus.” Yes, OCTOPUS FOR BREAKFAST! I was in heaven. Well, at first I was a little skeptical.

“Really, you guys serve octopus for breakfast?” I asked the waitress.

“Do you love octopus?” she asked.

“Well, yeah, I do – but for breakfast? Really?”

“Okay, you are having the Tom’s Big Breakfast and that’s final!” she said, taking my menu from me before I could utter another syllable.

Richard ordered his breakfast (a half-order of the Eggs Benedict, served on a homemade English muffin and a half-order of pancakes made with mascarpone cheese). He was in heaven, too.

I was still a little nervous about eating octopus at 8:30 in the morning. Granted, I like octopus (some of the best being at a fantastic seafood trattoria in Rome called Siciliainbocca), but I was raised in the Midwest where even Eggs Benedict seems a “wild” order and pushes boundaries, especially in my family. Octopus for dinner would be “crazy” in my family for dinner, let alone breakfast. I can see my father scrunching his face in disgust even as I type this.

Behold my breakfast ~

Tom's Big Breakfast including octopus- Beyond the Pasta, Mark Leslie

The dish began with a layer of sumac flavored yogurt, covered with a succotash of green beans, corn, onions, and octopus, which was then topped with a poached egg, bacon salt, and served with slices of toasted and buttered artisan bread. Seriously. It was to die for!

Tom Douglas, Seattle restaurateur, is the mastermind behind the “Greek” inspired menu at Lola. I am not sure if “Tom’s Big Breakfast” was his inspiration or not, but it seems likely, since his name is on it.

My second day only got better.

At 10:00 a.m., I met the very perky and charming Kristen Rezabek, writer at Examiner.com Seattle for donuts and coffee at Top Pot. This famous Seattle donut/coffee house was only two blocks in another direction from my hotel. Boy, did I luck out with the Westin!

Top Pot donuts are large, thick cake-like creations, which for a Yankee like me is wonderful. Krispy Kreme still reigns supreme where I live in Alabama. I think donut preference is determined early in youth and can never be changed. Kristen interviewed me about my book and she herself has been to Italy several times. We had a marvelous time and conversation. Thanks Kristen! (see how she adapted one of Beyond the Pasta’s recipes for her very young children. See the recipe.)

Back to the hotel to pick up Richard and ride the monorail to the Seattle City Center and the Space Needle! I felt like I was back at Disneyland when I was 4-years-old – minus the Donald Duck hat and the blood-curdling screams whenever I saw a costumed figure look my way. For me, Mickey might as well have been the precursor to Freddie Kruger and Minnie, in my mind, would have given the mask-wearing Halloween psycho, Michael Myers, a run for his money. And Jamie Lee Curtis has nothing on me when I was 4 and at Disneyland – please, she was the scream queen? Amateur! Don’t even get me started on about Goofy and Silence of the Lambs!

Festa Italiana was being held at the City Center and I was there to hang out at the Dante Alighieri Society of Washington’s booth to chat up my book, which is based on my experience as a student through the Dante Alighieri Society of Siena, Italy. Here is a video I put together of my afternoon at Festa Italiana:

I had another interview scheduled with Jacqueline of heedtheheadonist.com. We sat outside and talked on and on about Italy, the book, and how it connects to American culture. I met some really cool people that day. Here is her article about Festa Italiana and me.

For dinner, another of Tom Douglas’s Seattle restaurants – Serious Pie.

Just a block beyond Lola, this small and always slammed pizzeria prepares some truly great, wood-fired oven pizzas. The menu includes some truly Italian “pies”:

-guanciale, arugula and poached egg. (Guanciale is cured pig jowl…a type of unsmoked bacon, if you will).

-the classic Margherita (cheese and basil).

-fresh clams.

-potato, rosemary, and garlic

-fennel sausage with peppers and onions

-and the list went on.

Two hours, prosecco, cocktails, and dessert later, we found our way down the hill, two short blocks to the Westin. Seriously, we scored with the Westin’s location!

Ciao~

Mark

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 www.beyondthepasta.com 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 →

  1. Elizabeth BrownElizabeth Brown10-05-2010

    Mark, you’re actually on a book tour! How fun, and in such a great place. I am almost finished with Beyond the Pasta, and I feel like I’ve taken a trip to Italy–I’ve enjoyed it so much! Nancy reading it next.

  2. AndreaAndrea10-22-2010

    This truly was one of the best meals I had in Seattle and I’m so glad your octopus was great too. It looked yummy!!

"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.