A Wallingford Italian eatery specializes in homemade pastas and authentic cuisine.

It’s been a long odyssey from Southeast Asia for David and Lily Kong, owners of Perche No Pasta & Vino, one of Seattle’s most popular Italian restaurants. While Malaysia and Burma may seem an unlikely beginning for two restaurateurs, David and Lily’s journey has been improbable from the start.

A native of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and the son of Chinese parents, David landed in Berkeley, Calif. during the student upheavals in the early 1970s and worked at King Tzen, a popular Chinese eatery just north of the University of California campus.

Lily was a waitress at the Pot Sticker, a Chinese restaurant in San Mateo, when they first met. She grew up in Chiangmai, Thailand but was born in Burma. They were married in 1983 and have two sons. During his years in the Bay Area, under the tutelage of an accomplished Tuscan chef from Lucca, Renzo Meraville, David learned the fine art of Italian cuisine.

David and Lily always dreamed of starting their own Italian restaurant, and two years after their move to Seattle in 1990, they accomplished that goal when they established Perche No [“Why Not”?] in lower Queen Anne. They moved to their present location near Green Lake and Wallingford in 2006.

Housed in a handsome three-storied, custom-built Italian-style building, Perche No Pasta & Vino, as it’s now called, has a become a favorite, award-winning restaurant catering to the likes of such diverse clientele as the late Gov. Albert Rosselini, Shannon Lee, daughter of Bruce Lee, Seattle Storm’s Sue Bird, and the Green Bay Packers.

Inspired by a picturesque building that Lily visited in Bologna, Italy, the restaurant sports a Tuscan red-tiled roof, brick and plaster walls, and Italian lighting. The spacious interior features an open kitchen, private dining room, inviting wine bar and outdoor patio. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting.

Cooking runs in the family. David and Lily’s elder son, 25-year-old Christopher, who was born in San Francisco, is a Roosevelt High School and Western Washington University graduate and the restaurant’s sous-chef. Alexander, 21, a Seattle native and also a Roosevelt High School graduate, is the waiter/pre-cook. Lily manages the restaurant and David is the head chef.

David and Lily proudly showcased their restaurant during my recent visit. Perche No Pasta & Vino has ample indoor and outdoor seating that can accommodate large groups. The bar features more than 150 hand-selected wines, dozens of varieties of grappa, and an impressive array of liqueurs.

The extensive cuisine features homemade pastas, prosciutto, antipasta, and limoncello. “Each dish item is made fresh to order,” David said. One of their favorite antipasta dishes is “Salume alla Perche No,” made with home-cured prosciutto pork, wild boar and lamb, served with green olives. Another signature appetizer is “Portobello Funghi alla Griglia,” a marinated grilled Portobello mushroom.

Their signature salad is “Arugula con Limone e Caprino,” a very popular dish in Italy. The salad is a combination of goat cheese, marinated pepper, and lemon dressing. An excellent warm salad is “Lattuga alla Lily,” which is made of grilled heart of romaine with melted gorgonzola cheese, pine nuts, and reduction balsamic vinegar.

The local chef’s favorite dish is “Capellini con Sardine,” a mouth-watering combination of garlic, sardine capers, and parmesan cheese. My favorite pasta dish is “Ravioli Portobello al Pomodoro,” cooked with handmade tomato ravioli with Portobello mushrooms in fresh sage butter and white truffle oil.

For children ages 10 and under, there is a Children’s Healthy Menu. Catering and wedding banquet services are available as well as private parties. David also offers private cooking classes.

On the last Monday of every month, the restaurant features “Malaysian Night” with a wide menu of dishes from “Kari Puff,” “Satay Ayam” to “Laksa Lemak.”

For fine Italian cuisine and a unique dining experience, Perche No Pasta & Vino is well worth a visit.

The restaurant is located at 1319 N. 49th Street, Seattle, WA 98103. It’s open Tuesday to Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Fridays to Saturdays from 4 to 11 p.m., and Sunday from 4 to 10 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Monday.


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