Out with the Vecchio, in With the Nuovo

On Sunday, Nov. 14, Gaspare's was packed. It was the last business day for the Italian restaurant in Maple Leaf, a favorite of countless North Enders for the past 14 years, and if the extra-long wait for food was trying the patrons' patience, you'd never have known it. According to his wife, Dianne, chef-owner Gaspare Trani "single-handedly prepared 135 dinners that night"; a close-to-the-kitchen table offered a glimpse of the man at his stove, conducting sauces and pastas and sautés like sections of an orchestra while a mild, enjoyable chaos reigned in the dining room. Though longtime fans of Gaspare's must endure a hiatus, it should be brief: Dianne reports that she and Gaspare and currently seeking a new North End home for the restaurant, and that they hope to reopen—same name, same food—in three to four months. Why the move? The Tranis want to get back to the cozier, 10-table model they began with; in addition, they want to own their space instead of leasing. Meanwhile, former Pyramid Alehouse manager Tony Botchev plans to keep the former Gaspare's space Italian; his Toto's Ristorante Italiano should be open for business by the end of the month. New Blob in Town As if they weren't already spoiled, Northwest oyster fanciers have yet another version of their sacred bivalve to slurp alongside the dozens of varieties already glistening dimly on ice along the bar. This one's even a brand-new species—crassostrea virginica: virginicas for short. Native to the East Coast of the U.S., virginicas had a brief run on the Pacific Coast at the beginning of the last century, but proved commercially disappointing and were replaced by the hardy, fast-growing Japanese oyster which is the standard product today. Taylor Oyster Company's Bill Taylor has been working to build up harvestable quantities of virginica for 10 years, growing them from locally produced seed. There's no guarantee the new kid on the briny block will catch on this time around either, but Taylor has high hopes: "Many who have tasted [virginicas] say it's the best oyster they have ever eaten," he says. Holiday spirit This holiday season, 300 pounds of turkey, 75 pounds of stuffing, 100 pounds of potatoes, 75 pounds of yams, and 12 pounds of cranberry sauce are being put to good use at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar. On Thanksgiving Day, the Bellevue restaurant will host a lavish three-course holiday meal for over 60 financially challenged families (around 250 people in all). The Thanksgiving feast, which will last from noon until 4 p.m., will be cooked by the Seastar kitchen staff, with other services (dishwashing, etc.) provided by friends and family of employees who also want to volunteer their time. After the Thanksgiving dinner is finished for the attending families, chef/owner John Howie and the volunteers will sit down to their own Thanksgiving dinner together. What a great way to put the spirit of Thanksgiving back into America's most bloated holiday . . . and wouldn't you want to spend Thanksgiving with someone who's planning to bake 48 pumpkin pies? Food and/or beverage news? E-mail Hot Dish at food@seattleweekly.com.

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