Many Italian immigrants who arrived in the Northwest in the late 1890s found themselves toiling for low pay in dangerous and physically demanding...
“Sono nato a Bukavu in Congo nel 1964”, I was born in Bukavo, Congo in 1964.
Pietro Borghesi starts to talk about his life with the charm of a novelist, the spirit of an Italian from Romagna and the deliberation of an international soul.
Behind this man there is a three generations family history intertwined of colorful stories that span between a grandfather’s expedition in Africa, under the command of the Italian king, and the partisan father fighting against the fascist on the Apennines between Tuscany and Romagna.
Listening to Pietro is a pleasure and an inspiration: there is an endless passion in what he does, that reflects where he is coming from and who he truly is.
For those who live in Seattle, the name Pietro Borghesi is well known: he is the co-founder –with his wife Sabrina Tinsley- of the restaurant La Spiga in Capitol Hill.
La Spiga restaurant or better, osteria –as he likes to underline- is celebrating 16 years of Emilia-Romagna region’s traditional cuisine and authenticity this year.
When the couple opened the old location between Broadway and Union in October 1998, “Seattle was very much different” Pietro says, “Proposing a rabbit on the menu was perceived like offering a little bunny for dinner”.
The purpose of promoting authentic and delicious dishes from his region was welcomed with success and enthusiasm over the years: handmade tigella and piadina, gnocco fritto, passatelli and tortelli alla piastra –just to mention some delicacies- fascinated Seattleites like nothing else.
Sabrina Tinsley discovered on site the flavors of Romagna, where she went to see Pietro back in 1992 and where she lived for the following five years.
Their encounter is worth of a romance episode: the two had previously met in a cafe in Salzburg, Austria. He was on a detour after an Oktoberfest weekend in Monaco with his fellows and she was working in an international language school teaching English. When they decided to open La Spiga in Seattle, Pietro and Sabrina have already set the scene of the success: Sabrina, the chef in the kitchen and Pietro, the oste, difficult concept to translate in English, but probably easily explained by its Latin derivation in hospis (tis), which means “he who gives or receives hospitality”.
With this superb combination both have been able to express at the best their ability. On one hand Sabrina, who has an innate sense of cooking, coming from a creole background, has a deep understanding of the Italian culinary tradition and respect for the ingredients and she has been able to give authenticity to each recipe. On the other hand, Pietro, a successful salesman in the food industry in Italy, provides a natural courtesy and affability combined with his expertise in wine and hospitality to whoever walks in at La Spiga.
Menus here are changed seasonally to reflect the genuineness of the food while using the best Italian ingredients and what is fresh and available in local markets. When we talk to Pietro, we can sense an incredible, genuine love for his motherland that he and Sabrina redirect on the ingredients used in the kitchen.
In fact, at La Spiga it is possible to find several niche products hard to find in the market. Among those we have to mention one of the finest extra virgin olive oil, the Brisighella one, made out of olive trees that grow on the hilly villages of the Tosco-Romagnolo Apennine, where the cultivations date back to Romans.
Also Sale di Cervia, Sea Salt from Cervia, a small town in Emilia-Romagna on the Adriatic coast, which dates back more than 2,000 years, can be found here. Cervia sea salt is known for its absence of bitter minerals so it is naturally more “dolce” or sweet than other sea salts. Getting closer to end of our conversation, Pietro desires to mention how he and his wife Sabrina are very much involved in events that promotes fundraisings such as Fear Stars and Talk of The Town. There is another program tough that they supported very much, named One World Now! A program that provides underserved high school students’ access to critical language studies, leadership development and study abroad opportunities.
It seems like a perfect circle that opened talking about a child born in remote Africa and it closes drawing possibilities abroad for young generations.
To learn more about La Spiga, visit http://www.laspiga. com/