Best Restaurant Makeover

FOOD & DRINK

Back in December, I wrote: "As a purebred Italian eatery, SPAZZO is sleeker, smarter, and classier." Than what, you ask? Than its previous incar­nation, a muddled pan-Med restaurant that spread itself too thin across too many cuisines. The mediocrity came to a blessed end last fall, when Schwartz Brothers, the local firm that owns Spazzo, hired ex–Brasa chef Julie Hawkinson to head up the kitchen. Sub­sequently, the place underwent a massive overhaul: new concept, new menu, new wine bar, lower lighting—in short, almost as extreme a makeover as a restaurant can receive. The result? A place so different from the Spazzo of old that they might as well have changed the name, too. Gone were the halfhearted stabs at Greek and Spanish food, the transparently artificial cheer of the service, the superfluous commotion of the tapas bar (replaced by the aforementioned wine bar). After its daring face-lift, Spazzo was at last a contender; its compact, traditional menu filled with seasonal flavors, carefully developed by Hawkinson, put the previous, overlong version to shame. Thanks to Spazzo's stitch in time, the negative review I had been brooding over turned into a rave about pitch-perfect gnocchi and an Eastside standby's welcome return to the bosom of Mamma Italia. KeyBank Building, ninth floor, 10655 N.E. Fourth St. (Bellevue), 425-454-8255.

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