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Farewell to Café Pettirosso: "Seattle loves you back!"

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Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso
Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso

After 27 years on Capitol Hill, Café Pettirosso announced its permanent closure as of February 6. In a statement released Sunday, the owner-sibling duo Yuki and Miki Sodos cited upcoming developments at their 11th Avenue and E. Pike Street location that would cause "too much" of a burden, and said that they would like to end their tenure "on their own terms."

"Pettirosso loves you Seattle, but the path of small business is crushing right now," read the statement. "We stayed open every day during the pandemic, the protests, snowstorms, years of construction, and gentrification, but it is now our time."

This year marked the tenth that Café Pettirosso has resided at its present address, adjacent to the entrance of Chophouse Row. Now, 2022 will also mark the end of an era of brilliant patisserie and artisanal coffee at the café.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso  

Decades of respite
Robin Wright founded Café Pettirosso (Italian for "robin"), as a coffee cart in 1994. As the business evolved into a brick-and-mortar location, it quickly became known for its quaint atmosphere.

Welcoming walls of plum accented by apricot-gold decor and the smells of wood enveloped all who entered the space (or stood in line at the door). Pulitzer-winning former Seattle Times writer Susan Kelleher described the café-bistro with one word: "Respite." As the world outside became ever more chaotic over the years, Pettirosso offered its patrons a brief, delightful escape.

In 2011, the Sodos sisters, who also own Othello's Bang Bang Café, came to own the café by Wright's request upon her retirement. They elevated the existing features of the bistro, giving the venue a large dining space and full bar. They also introduced more plant-based and gluten-free menu items, like their neighborhood-famous vegan mac 'n' cheese.

Pettirosso's story as told by Yuki Sodos on the website describes her first encounter with the café in 2000 under Wright's ownership. "Robin made the most delicious hand-pulled espresso on her vintage 2-group machine and played only opera," she said. "The colorful café and charming ambiance had a gravitational pull, and not just for me."

Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso  

Plans for development
Throughout the years, the café has been continuously updated and well maintained under the Sodos' ownership. It is the longest-standing of four current tenants in the historic Baker Linen Building, which was purchased in 2019 by neighborhood developer Liz Dunn, of Dunn & Hobbes, LLC, for $5.4 million. Constructed in 1916 as an automobile showroom, garage, and services building for Seattle Automobile Company, the building's first great transition was in the 1940s when it got its current name. It became a garment-producing facility for Baker Linen, its namesake, in the early part of that decade.

Dunn is a preservation-minded developer. Upon purchase, she announced no immediate changes to Baker Linen. Proposed updates include expansive co-working office spaces for the neighborhood, which would bring the Pike/Pine area up to speed with similar fast-paced parts of Seattle (like SLU, host of "urban basecamp" The Collective).

The developer's projects around Capitol Hill have proved impressive in the past. Next to Baker Linen, Chophouse Row debuted in 2015 and is lined with inviting spaces. Additions at Chophouse Row have also stayed complementary to the height and history of the space, which aligns with the plans for Baker Linen.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso  

With the loss of Café Pettirosso, however, the community is audibly upset. In the 24 hours following Pettirosso's social media announcements, over a hundred comments flowed in. Community members on Facebook said they are "gutted," "so sad," and "crushed."

"We love you, Robin Wright, for creating Café Pettirosso and we love you Capitol Hill!!! ... Thank you for an amazing 27 years!!! #PettirossoLovesYou," reads the owners' statement.

Photo courtesy of Cafe Pettirosso  

In the sea of comment reactions, someone wrote, "Seattle loves you back."

This news hasn't been easy for workers either. In the café Monday morning, a clerk said that they are hopeful they and their teammates are talented enough to find new work as soon as possible.

On Monday, Capitol Hill Seattle Blog reported a response from Dunn. She maintained that the building is not slated to be gutted "in the near future," and that Dunn & Hobbes provided Pettirosso an option to extend its lease another five years.

While the development timeline remains unclear, Café Pettiroso's current lease is set to end at the end of February, and the owners pointed to a "massive raise in the rent" as a component of their decision to terminate the business on their own terms.

Always a respite, Café Pettirosso will go down in the books as an impactful community establishment where people could share in the pleasures of brunch and chosen family.