Italian cuisine doesn’t get much better than Capers and Olives in downtown Everett — unless you go to Italy.
My coworkers and I couldn’t stop raving about the new restaurant on Colby Avenue, which serves house-made pasta with seasonal ingredients in an intimate setting.
I’m glad Sara and Sharon joined me for lunch. It was a thrill to find a gem like this together.
“I haven’t been this impressed with a restaurant in a long time,” Sara said.
Grab a friend or two and eat family-style so you can taste as much as possible off the menu. The three of us split two starters, three pastas and a dessert.
The very friendly and passionate Jimmy Liang, owner and chef of Capers and Olives, gave us his personal recommendations.
“I’m Chinese, and that’s how we eat,” Liang said. “It’s the same way with Italian culture. You see a big bowl of spaghetti and a big bowl of bread on the table. It’s a good way to share a little bit of everything.”
It’s only been open a week, yet Capers and Olives already is a smooth operation.
Liang, 46, worked at well-known Italian restaurants in Seattle, Kirkland and Everett, and most recently as chef at Asian fusion restaurant Terracotta Red on Hewitt Avenue, for the past 20 years. He made it a goal to open his own restaurant four years ago.
“I wanted to have more creative freedom and do things the way I wanted,” Liang said. “I just needed something smaller and more personable.”
When the Hawaiian restaurant Kama’aina Grindz closed in March, he found his location. He likes that it’s in Everett, where he’s worked for the past 10 years.
“I love the community,” Liang said. “The people have just been so great.”
He didn’t make too many changes to the space, but he made sure to open the kitchen so people can watch him cook as they dine.
“When you have the best ingredients, you showcase it,” Liang said. “There’s nothing to hide. Guests like that.”
The walls are made of exposed brick. If it’s nice out, bay windows are left open. The atmosphere was relaxed.
We ordered the $12 bruschetta and the $14 hamachi crudo — Italy’s version of sushi — for starters. The bruschetta featured a smoked salmon spread, topped with pickled shallot, capers, lemon juice and dandelion leaves. As for the Italian sushi, tender ahi tuna was paired with strawberry slices, sea salt, pine nuts, celery leaves and olive oil.
Both were excellent, but the pastas stole the show.
The lunch menu features six different pastas: bucatini, paccheri, cavatelli, spaghetti, tagliatelle and rigatoni. All of them are made fresh, except for the spaghetti. That one is imported dry from Rustichella d’Abruzzo, a nearly 100-year-old artisan factory east of Rome.
Liang pairs each pasta with its own signature ingredient.
I ordered the $16 bucatini with pancetta, which is Italian-cured pork belly, red onion and an egg yolk.
Sara chose the rigatoni with fennel sausage, English peas and Parmesan brodo (a broth) for $15. She was amazed at how well the sausage, peas and Parmesan complemented each other.
Sharon, a vegetarian, chose the $14 spaghetti with tomato sauce, chili flakes and basil. She gave the spaghetti two thumbs up. The sauce really stood out to her.
“People say spaghetti can be simple, but this is great,” Sharon said. “The flavors are balanced nicely.”
Since the dishes are served family-style, we were encouraged to try each other’s pastas. I was impressed by the unique flavors of each one.
All of them were wonderful, each cooked to a perfect al dente, but Sara and I both enjoyed the bucatini the most for its smokiness. It was deeply satisfying.
“It’s from slowly rendering the pancetta,” Liang said.
For dessert, we had a sorbet made with peach puree and topped with lime zest for $5. The interplay between the sweetness of the peach, which tasted like it had just been picked, and the lime zest was unforgettable.
Had we come for dinner, I might have tried the scallops ($28), prime New York strip ($39) or pork chop ($25).
Liang also recommended trying Mary’s chicken ($23), which he says is the most popular dinner item. It’s chicken thigh served with au jus, cipollini and cherries.
Evan Thompson: 360-544-2999; email@example.com. Twitter: @evanthompson_1.
Capers and Olives
The Italian restaurant is at 2933 Colby Ave., Everett.
Lunch hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner is 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Sundays.
Call 425-322-5280 or go to www.capersandolives.com for more information.