Welcome to the first edition of Nuggets, a column where I share — you guessed it — nuggets!
For our purposes, nuggets are pieces of news that don’t merit a full story, things I missed in my reporting, or fun tidbits our readers share following a story’s publication.
Which brings us to this week’s column: After writing about Dutch babies a few weeks ago, I learned that these gloriously puffy pancakes were created right in Seattle, and the inventor’s great grandson, Mark Manca, resides in Everett.
Victor Manca operated a restaurant in Seattle called Manca’s Cafe, where he created and popularized Dutch babies. Mark Manca still has his great grandfather’s eventual trademark for “Dutch Babies”, dated Jan. 11, 1956.
A smaller version of a classic German pancake, Dutch babies were created out of a need for a simple yet unique breakfast item with a fast turnover.
“When you’re at a restaurant, no one wants to wait 20 minutes for a pancake,” Mark Manca said. “They shrunk it down. (Victor) had these specially made Dutch baby pans so they could be produced within eight to 12 minutes.”
Manca’s Cafe traditionally dressed their Dutch babies with butter, lemon juice and powdered sugar. They were also a weekend breakfast staple for the large Italian family.
Victor Manca and his brother had traveled all over the United States before settling in Seattle during the Gold Rush in the 1890s, Manca’s wife Sally Johansen said in an email. By the time they opened Manca’s Cafe in Seattle, three generations of Manca’s had operated restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri; Pueblo, Colorado; Salt Lake City and other cities in the late 19th century.
The Manca’s Cafe menu was extensive: You could order dishes like cold boiled fresh king salmon, Manca-style Italian spaghetti and creamed veal sweetbreads for under $2.
And of course, there were the Dutch babies, priced at $1.40 each.
“Manca’s is perhaps best known for its ‘Dutch Babies’…It pretty well covers a dinner dish, is eaten like powdered sugar and syrup, tastes a little like a popover and a little like a souffle. Most Dutch Baby addicts eat two of them at a sitting,” Douglass Welch wrote in The Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1955, when Manca’s announced it would close indefinitely.
Father-and-son duo Victor and Gene Manca told the Post-Intelligencer that “after all these years they are entitled to a vacation.” Their nearly 60-year legacy was nothing to sneeze at.
Mark Manca, now 60, began working in restaurants when he was 15.
“My goal always was to reopen Manca’s in Seattle or in the Seattle area before my grandfather passed away,” he said. “And I was able to do that.”
Nearly 40 years after his family closed up shop, Mark Manca reincarnated Manca’s Cafe in Seattle’s Madison Park in 1992 with three other family members. Menu items included lamb medallions, old standbys like salmon and steak, barbecued baby back ribs, fresh mushrooms in a chicken stock that was “nothing short of outstanding” and a “perfect vanilla ice cream” from Snoqualmie Gourmet Ice Cream, according to Seattle Times writer Deloris Tarzan Ament.
Along with Pacific Northwest cuisine, they sold Dutch babies for breakfast on the weekends.
The family ran Manca’s until 1998 (exactly one century after Manca’s first opened), when Starbucks bought the location, according to The Seattle Times’ Jean Godden, who called Manca’s a “popular neighborhood restaurant and longtime Seattle institution.”
The Manca’s are a family of restaurateurs: Mark Manca is now the general manager at Seastar Restaurant and Raw Bar in Bellevue, and his cousin Andrea Manca owns Manca’s Catering in Bellevue.
Plenty more stories highlight the Manca family’s food industry prowess, such as the time Mark Manca’s great grandpa sold his peanut butter recipe to Seattle-based Pacific Standard Foods company, which owned the Sunny Jim brand, for “some ridiculous low price.”
But Grandpa Manca was always “tight-lipped” about his Dutch baby recipe, Mark Manca added.
Do you have the original recipe? I asked him.
“I do,” he responded. “I’m a Manca!”
Have an interesting nugget to share? Email food reporter Taylor Goebel at email@example.com or call 425-339-3046. Twitter: @taylorgoebel. Join The Herald’s food-centered Facebook group, SnohomDish.