Add Italy to the international mix of restaurants on that stretch of Pacific Avenue between South Ninth and South Seventh streets in downtown Tacoma.
Il Trattoria di Merende (merende means "small bite") is planning a soft opening Sept. 21. It will join India Mahal, Irish pub Paddy Coyne's and Tex-Mex restaurant Matador in what Merende co-owner Julia Lombardi calls a pocket neighborhood with "real European flair."
"I think we've all tried to engender that," Lombardi says. "This whole area has changed dramatically."
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Lombardi, husband Kenneth and son Ian are co-owners of the new venture. Local favorite Jeff Bishop, formerly of Il Fiasco, will be doing his thing in the kitchen. Ian will be managing the restaurant, though he did his own chef training in Florence, Italy.
Merende will focus on small plates, priced between $10 and $12, along with larger entrées, small pizzas and a full bar. Said bar – of deep gray slate – was curing under fans Wednesday afternoon when I poked my head in.
The old Vin Grotto space has been transformed with exposed brick walls, slate floors, recycled-glass tile and industrial-style exposed ductwork overhead. (Pictures below.)
The Lombardis are shooting for an upscale feel that's still relaxed enough for families. By staying open until 11 p.m. or later, they'll offer a spot for theatergoers and UWT students looking for a late-night bite.
Check back for updates here when Merende opens its doors at 813 Pacific Ave.