Stores and state liquor board get ready


Within hours of the early results showing that Initiative 1183 would be approved, retailers and entrepreneurs put their toes on the starting line of the Washington equivalent of the Oklahoma land rush, and the state Liquor Control Board issued its first Liquor Sales Transition webpage announcing a timeline for implementation of the initiative and an outline of the new liquor licenses that can be applied for early next year.

Safeway Stores announced that it expects to sell liquor at all of its 155 Washington stores, and a Trader Joe’s spokesperson thought the chain would sell distilled spirits at most or all of its stores in the state, according to a Seattle Times report.

Liquor Board spokesman Brian Smith says he did not believe the board would require stores to set up separate, secure retailing areas for the sale of spirits, such as can be found in Washington, D.C., Safeway stores. Smith did say that paper applications for the new “spirits distributor” and “spirits retail” licenses would be available in early January. Distributors and retailers would be authorized to begin operations on or after March 1 and June 1, 2012, respectively.

Dining: Home Cooking in Ballard

Dining: Home Cooking in Ballard

San Fermo strives for comfort Italian style.

Named for a 16th-century monastery 50 miles west of Venice, San Fermo in Ballard is probably the first new restaurant in a long time that wants to make its name in rustic, homey Italian food. 

Instead of focusing on the current trend of modern, interpretive Italian dishes, co-owners Tim Baker (Percy’s & Co.), Scott Shapiro (Melrose Market), and Wade Weigel and Jeff Ofelt (both of Bimbo’s Bitchin’ Burrito Kitchen, Cha Cha Lounge, King’s Hardware and Percy’s fame) have transformed the conjoined (and formerly pea green) historic Pioneer Houses on Ballard Avenue into an utterly charming, upscale pasta house. The 50-seat San Fermo, which abuts the Ballard Farmers Market on Sundays, is now a glossy white stunner with black accents and a similar indoor color scheme.

Executive chef Sam West (he also runs the kitchen at Percy’s a block away) and sous-chef Zach Wagar (formerly of Spinasse) offer solid, traditional entrées, such as rabbit cacciatore and osso buco, but you’ll want to go straight for their handmade pastas, which change daily. Delicate, ricotta-filled duck ravioli ($17) swim in traditional rosemary broth with shallots; weighty, wavy mafaldine carbonara ($16) is tossed with fatty guanciale (pork cheek), which puffs up to an irresistible crunch and, along with fresh egg, coats the wide, ribbon-like noodles beautifully.

The antipasti ($12) — an ever-changing medley of seasonal, marinated and pickled vegetables, fresh cheeses and inventive cured proteins — is also a sure thing, especially when paired with a bottle of rosé and enjoyed on one of the restaurant’s two killer outdoor patios. Central to the north patio and its neighboring ivy-covered brick wall is a sagging crabapple tree studded with beehive lanterns.

Spending warm nights there (and on the smaller south patio) listening to an eclectic range of music — from Billie Holiday to M. Ward to Creedence Clearwater Revival — while eating fresh, simple, approachable Italian food was among the highlights of my summer. Luckily, heaters and blankets will keep it going this fall.