Owning both Café Bengodi and Luigi's Grotto—two Italian eateries on the same block of Pioneer Square—just wasn't enough for restaurateur Luigi DeNunzio. So last year he opened Brindisi, a little place on James Street whose menu spotlights a different regional cuisine each month, and added a grab-and-go sandwich stand, Il Chiosco, to Bengodi. Is neighborhood domination DeNunzio's plan? "We are in the process of creating Little Italy here, just like every other city," he says. "That is going to be my legacy to Seattle." Lest you write off his vision as a mere marketing ploy, DeNunzio is happy to go into detail: "We have an Italian artist, a painter, we have somebody that blows the glass. When Italians will come, instead of opening in Snoqualmie . . . they can come to Little Italy." But will Pi Square attract enough Italian eateries, bakeries, and gelaterias to reach critical mass? DeNunzio plans to spend the next decade working on it.—Neal Schindler Brindisi: 106 James St., 206-223-0042. Café Bengodi: 700 First Ave., 206-381-0705. DeNunzio's (formerly Luigi's Grotto): 102 Cherry St., 206-343-9517.
Luigi DeNunzio's Picks
Best non-Italian eateries: "For sashimi, Yoshibono. It's in Chinatown. Beautiful sushi cutters, those guys. Chinese: Ho Ho, in Chinatown. Lot of seafood there. Fresh mushrooms, you know, pea vines, stuff like that. The only eclectic restaurant that I like is the Dahlia. Then there is Greek! There is a place called Kleftiko in Queen Anne, and Panos does a great job. Beautiful, beautiful flavors."
Best Italian eateries that aren't yours: "There is one in Bellevue, and that's Sans Souci. With Luciano Bardinelli, probably the best Italian restaurateur, to be honest with you. And Il Terrazzo [Carmine] is very nice."
Best gelato: "Gelatiamo does a great job. La Bottega [Italiana] does a good job, too. They're the only ones doing real gelato."
Favorite regional cuisine in Italy: "Emilia-Romagna. Very rich, a lot of fat, all the things I cannot have. That's where parmigiano comes from, prosciutto, tortellini, ravioli, lasagna. The other cuisine I really like in Italy is the Sicilian cuisine. Besides the seafood, there is [the] influence of Middle Eastern [cuisine]. You have couscous, you have old spices—some Greek, and some Arab. Culturally, it's a beautiful cuisine."