Bowing out at the top of your game

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Carsberg last service at Bisato.JPG

They say the Italians have passion but no discipline, creativity but no follow-through. They never met Scott Carsberg, who isn't Italian by heritage but by temperament, and they would be wrong.

For the past two decades, Carsberg's dedication to his craft--Italian cooking at the highest level--has been unequaled in Seattle. In today's world of celebrity chefs, he's an unassuming throwback.

Last Negroni iPhone.JPGUnlike a lot of would-be "chefs" who spend a month lounging around an agriturismo in Tuscany or doing a stage at a pasta palace in Milan, and return to the States with a newfound "passion" for Italian cuisine, Carsberg really did make his bones in classical ktichens. Born in West Seattle, he made the rounds of American and European capitals, growing especially fond of the Italian style. He worked at Settebello before setting off on his own, where he was able to develop his own approach to cooking, marrying the rigor and restraint of French cuisine with Italian inspiration and attention to ingredients.

In person, he could pass for a fry cook at Mel's Diner. ("I have a mug only a mother could love," he told me when I took his picture some years back.) In 1992, 20 years ago, he and his wife, Hyun Joo Paek, opened their own place in Belltown, Lampreia. It was a formal, prix-fixe establishment in what was then a relatively rowdy part of Seattle. In 2006, Carsberg won long-overdue recognition from the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef, Northwest. And after he transformed Lampreia into a more modest, Venetian-style wine bar called Bisato, he won Best "Authentic Italian" Restaurant in North America from Birra Moretti

Belltown residents like yours truly would see Carsberg sitting at a table on the sidewalk outside his restaurant, grabbing some fresh air during his afternoon prep, greeting passersby. Sometimes gruff, sometimes charming, but always approachable. Then, two weeks ago, the bombshell: Carsberg and his wife announced they were closing permanently. Time for a break, Carseberg said. But to the end, even as the menu reprised "Bisato's Greatest Hits," the place maintained its quiet dignity. Three unhurried servers under Hyun Joo's stately direction, a stream of reverential patrons ordering butternut squash soup, sea urchin risotto, braised short rib. Carsberg himself hovering over every dish, with intensity and focus, for a full-throttle, thoroughly professional finish to a 20-year run.

UPDATE: Bisato just posted this message on their Facebook page

We've been asked how to get a hold of us during our break. You can reach us at, leave a voicemail at (347) 762-3740, and (of course) Facebook.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on October 16, 2012 9:00 AM.

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