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Waitsburg’s Bar Bacetto named James Beard finalist

Bar Bacetto, 119 Main St., in Waitsburg, Wash., is a James Beard finalist for best new restaurant.   (James Hanlon/The Spokesman-Review)
From staff reports

The small-town Bar Bacetto in southeast Washington was listed April 3 as a James Beard Award finalist for best new restaurant.

Formerly named a semifinalist, the Waitsburg eatery has moved onto the final round, before winners in the new restaurant category are announced at the James Beard Restaurant and Chef Awards Ceremony on June 10 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

To qualify as new for the prestigious award, the restaurant had to open between Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 30, already demonstrate excellence in cuisine, seem likely to make a significant impact in years to come and demonstrate “consistent excellence in food, atmosphere, hospitality and operations, while contributing positively to its broader community.” 

Chef Mike Easton, who found acclaim starting several restaurants in Seattle, opened Bar Bacetto in fall 2022 with his wife and business partner, Erin Easton.

The Italian pasta establishment for ages 21 and older is nestled in an elegant historic building in the 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 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.

“Bacetto” are the little cheek kisses given when greeting another in Italy, Erin Easton explained.

The Eastons 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 hasn’t missed the attention of food critics, as it also made the New York Times’ list of top 50 restaurants of 2023.

The Eastons recently announced their plan to open a pizza restaurant in Walla Walla. The pair will transform the space at 1619 E. Isaacs Ave. into a den featuring Detroit-style pies, the Seattle Met reported