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Waitsburg’s hidden gem Bar Bacetto is a New York Times Top 50 dining destination near wine country

The Bar Bacetto, 119 Main St., in Waitsburg, Wash., is on the New York Times’ Top 50 Restaurants of 2023 list.  (James Hanlon/The Spokesman-Review)

WAITSBURG, Wash. – A celebrated restaurateur closed his West Side hustle to set up shop in an idyllic southeast Washington town – and word is getting around far beyond Walla Walla County.

Bar Bacetto, an Italian pasta establishment for ages 21 and older, nestles in an elegant historic building in Waitsburg, a town of 1,200 people 20 miles northeast of Walla Walla.

The cozy 18-seat bar at 119 Main St. was born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, when James Beard Award-nominated chef Mike Easton closed his Seattle restaurant, Il Corvo, in May 2020 after nine years of business. He sold its sister restaurant in West Seattle, Il Nido, last year to move to Waitsburg with his wife and business partner, Erin.

“Bacetto” – pronounced bah-CHET-toh – are the little cheek kisses given when greeting another in Italy, Erin Easton explained.

Mike and Erin occupy the former home of Jimgermanbar, a fancy cocktail lounge that closed in 2015 and was owned by friend Jim German.

“We jumped at the chance of a fresh start in a beautiful town surrounded by wheat and wine,” Erin Easton said.

Bar Bacetto is Il Corvo reimagined, dishing up a limited, ever-changing menu of antipasti, pastas and cocktails. The pasta shapes are made by hand with intention, as comfort food, Mike Easton said.

Somewhat off the map, Bar Bacetto hasn’t missed the attention of food critics, as it made the New York Times’ list of top 50 restaurants of 2023 last month. Patrons are a mix of locals, some who drive from the Tri-Cities, and “a solid contingency from Seattle.”

Il Corvo devotees make the pilgrimage for Mike’s handmade pasta and bread.

The simple menu, always changing, will be chalked up on a black slate: for example, try the cavatelli with housemade sausage, rainbow chard and tomato or the ravioli trapuntato with feta filling, sun gold tomatoes, garlic and oregano.

Reserve a seat at the only table, for five or six people once a night, to sample the whole menu, served family style.

Bar Bacetto is open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.