Costella’s Italian Restaurant and Market is now open
Costella’s Italian Restaurant and Market is now open in South Hill.
The restaurant’s opening day is today (September 18). Costella’s is at 214 39th Ave. SW., which is the former home of the Hub South Hill next door to South Hill Mall.
The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner daily with a focus on affordable family dining at the Italian eatery with a menu of classic Italian pastas, pizzas and more.
Here’s what you need to know before you go.
I attended a preview pre-opening dinner (I paid for all food and beverages I consumed). Notes and photos shared here are from that preview dinner.
COSTELLA’S OWNER AND THE CHEF
Costella’s is a concept missing from the entire region, not just South Hill. If you want a local comparison, Costella’s is a cross between Europa Bistro in Proctor and Viafore’s, the Italian deli in Fircrest that closed permanently earlier this year.
The concept is divided between a take-out deli and a restaurant with a robust family-friendly menu of Italian classics. The concept comes from Mike Rubel, who owns the property where the restaurant operates.
Costella’s is named after Rubel’s godfather, Reno Costella.
“He was the king of artichokes,” Rubel told me this summer when I first spoke to him about Costella’s. His godfather died in 2002. Rubel created the restaurant as an homage to the produce king whose family moved to the United States from Northern Italy, as did Rubel’s mother’s family.
Rubel’s mother and Costella also grew up in California. Costella worked in produce and he cultivated a specific brand of artichoke hearts called Cara Mia, explained Rubel, who grew up near Santa Cruz, a region that’s home to an abundance of artichoke farms.
The artichokes peppered throughout the menu as an ingredient, and sold as products on the shelves of the take-out deli, are by design, of course.
Joaquin “Keno” Buttner is executive chef and has a broad resume with all kinds of restaurant experiences. For the last 25 years, he’s cooked at everything from Knapp’s to the Lobster Shop at Dash Point. He’s been cooking since he was 14. As an adult, he went back to school to get his culinary degree from the Oregon Culinary Institute in 2010.
For those searching for handmade pasta in South Hill, you’ll find it at Costella’s. Buttner’s fresh handmade fettuccine, gnocchi and ravioli are all on the opening menu (the extruded pastas are a purchased product).
He’ll frequently change the ravioli fillings, but the opening menu has a handmade cheese-filled ravioli. His gnocchi came in a choice of bolognese or pesto.
The pizza menu makes good use of the Wood Stone pizza oven left behind by the Hub.
THE CONCEPT AT COSTELLA’S
The style of food skews upscale with housemade everything – from the pasta to the pomodoro sauce – but the presentation and the dining room are unfussy and built for family gatherings. The toddler spills a plate of pasta on the ground? No worries. It’s stained concrete and easy to clean up. So are the wooden tables and chairs. Kids will be as at home here as grownups will be in the bar selecting from a list of beer, wine and cocktails.
The restaurant is unfussy and approachable in a community that demands both those things, and it’s also affordable. Entrees are solidly between $15-$18 with only one dish – the steak ($26) – above the $20 pricepoint. Portion sizes are in line with those prices paid; they’re of modest size.
COSTELLA’S ITALIAN MARKET
The Italian restaurant doubles as an Italian market and deli with racks just beyond the host station stacked with imported jars of sauces, vegetables, carnaroli rice, farro, pasta, imported olive oil, vinegar and a dozen more ingredients that are difficult to find outside a specialty Italian market.
Flanking the deli shelves are two refrigerator cases stacked with packages of sliced sopressata from Olympia Provisions, plus sliced calabrese, packaged sausages, wedges of pecorino, beverages and more.
Executive Chef Buttner said that the plan is to add grab-and-go meals to those refrigerator cases for heating and serving at home, much like what Viafore’s once offered when it operated. The restaurant also intends to do a robust take-out program. However, the restaurant is working through a soft opening for the short term, so expect take-out and grab-and-go meals to grow with the restaurant.
COSTELLA’S OPENING MENU: ITALIAN GREATEST HITS
Every bit of the Italian classics are covered. The appetizer list includes fried calamari ($13), traditional bruschetta ($13) or avocado bruschetta ($15), a deli selection with meat, cheese and olives ($20), artichoke dip ($11) and a nice array of entree salads – Caesar ($15), chop ($17), mixed green ($15), panzanella ($15). The starter list also includes fried zucchini ($13), polenta ($12), grilled vegetables ($11) and cream of tomato soup ($7).
Sixteen entrees include three versions of risotto – artichoke ($16), peas with chive oil ($15) and mushroom ($18). Spaghetti comes with a red sauce and meatballs ($16) or a pomodoro sauce ($14). Gnocchi comes in two styles – with pesto or bolognese ($16).
There’s also a classic lasagna on the menu ($16), plus linguini and clams ($18), fettuccine alfredo ($16) and cheese ravioli ($17). There’s a flat iron steak ($26), chicken saltimbocca ($18) and eggplant parmesan ($16). Six pizzas include artichoke and goat cheese ($13), salami ($15), cheese ($10), mushroom and olive ($13), margherita ($12) and pepperoni ($14).
Low carbers you get your very own entree made with zucchini noodles – the zucchini pomodoro ($14). There are at least eight vegetarian-friendly entrees on the menu.
Dessert includes tiramisu ($8), apple fritter bread pudding ($7) and espresso ice cream ($6).
ON A FIRST VISIT: TRY THESE
Whatever you do, don’t miss the calamari, threaded with sliced, breaded and fried pepperoncinis that serve to cut the richness of that fried dish. I loved digging deep into the tentacles and rings, in search of those little pockets of sharp flavor. The calamari – with a light-and-crunchy breading – is served with a spicy red sauce and aioli for dipping ($13).
The deli plate came with wispy slices of cured meats, three kinds of cheese, marinated olives, a handful of roasted cherry tomatoes and plenty of mustard for dredging the toasted bread ($20).
The spaghetti was twirled up into a mound on the plate and draped in a silky red sauce that Buttner told me gets its heat from red pepper flakes, but also a dose of fresh garlic and black pepper at the end of cooking. The pasta arrived perfectly al dente and ready to spin onto my fork, with three bouncy meatballs flecked with chopped parsley ($16).
I’d go back again and again for the house made gnocchi, which were puffy clouds of potato suspended in a garlicky pesto and hit with a heavy shave of pecorino before service ($16).
Can’t wait to see what the bolognese gnocchi tastes like. I also pledge to return to check out Buttner’s other handmade pastas: the ravioli and fettuccine.
And three kinds of risotto? Yes, please.
COSTELLA’S ITALIAN RESTAURANT AND MARKET
Where: 214 39th Ave SW, Puyallup; 253-466-3964
Order online: https://www.toasttab.com/costtella-s/v3
Serving: Lunch and dinner daily
NOW OPEN: DELISH BAKERY IN STEILACOOM
Cupcakes, macarons, twice-baked croissants and a wicked good brownie are on the menu at new scratch bakery, Delish. It’s now open in Steilacoom. Here’s my story about that.