By Lara Alexander
There’s a new restaurant in town with a familiar face in the kitchen. Chef and owner Michael Young has transformed Olives Café and Wine Bar, on 5th Avenue in downtown Edmonds, to Il Buffone. With the name change comes a new menu that focuses on Neapolitan-style pizza and handmade pasta.
Young said that when he opened Olives seven years ago, he hoped to be a nice neighborhood place. But after a while he realized he had drifted away from his original idea. “We had become more ostentatious and expensive,” Young said, “and I wanted to get back to that concept of a place to go for good food and fun, without breaking the bank.”
Young said the change was also inspired by the birth of his daughter, which made him realize that he didn’t want to be the stereotypical restaurateur who is never home to see his family.
A few things have stayed the same: Some of the pasta dishes will be recognizable from Olive’s menu and the wine selection is still generous, although it has been simplified and the price point has been brought down. Another change are the new hours: Il Buffone is only open for dinner, giving Young more time at home than the previous schedule at Olives, which demanded that Young put in 12- to 14-hour days.
Il Buffone’s new menu focuses on fresh house-made pasta dishes and Neapolitan-style wood-fired pizzas cooked in the searing 750-degree heat of the newly installed wood-fired oven. Young says that the wood-fired oven imparts a great smoky taste to the pizza as well as a crisper texture, cooking in a quick 90 seconds!
Young adheres to the high standards of the Associaziano Vera Pizza Napoletana, an international non-profit organization that certifies pizza makers “who meet strict requirements that respect the tradition of the art of the Neapolitan pizza making.” Young said he describes his pizzas as in the “style” of Neapolitan because he chooses to use locally produced flour from Shepherd’s Grain, rather than import Italian Cupato 00 flour, in an effort to reduce the “carbon footprint” of his restaurant. This decision means that he cannot seek certification, but can still adhere to the other standards – daily handmade dough, fresh mozzarella and San Marzano tomatoes, always cooked in the wood-fired oven.
His source of flour is not the only way that Young keeps an eye out for local and sustainable ingredients. All of his cured meats come from nearby Zoe’s meats, his fresh pork is grown in Washington, and the rabbit on the menu is raised in Oregon. Young is looking forward to the bounty of summer when he will obtain most of his produce from Frog Song Farm, a vendor of the Edmonds farmers market.
Even though Young is focusing on quality ingredients prepared fresh and by hand, his goal has also been to bring down the prices — and he has done well. Pizza and pasta dishes range from $10 to $16, with a special $5 happy hour menu on weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. Young’s favorite item on the new menu is the Feste pizza, topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, prosciutto, basil and grana cheese, with a little salad of arugula in the center. He says that the first time he ate a similar pizza, he thought, “Why is there salad on my pizza? But then I took a bite of it and fell in love with it.”
107 Fifth Ave. N., Edmonds
Open from 4 p..m Tuesday through Sunday. Closed on Mondays.
A culinary adventurer, Lara Alexander grows, cooks and writes about food from her home in Edmonds. You can read about her garden and kitchen fun on the blog Food-Soil-Thread.