New York-style pizzeria to open on island
By Halle Wyatt, Reporter
Many recognize Michael McConnell’s name from the well-known Caffe Vita and the Neapolitan-style restaurant, Via Tribunali. Now, he’s expanding his business to the island with a New York-style pizza place. The currently unnamed pizzeria is expected to open its doors in early summer. The restaurant will share space with Pollard Coffee’s new cafe, next door to Relish.
Robin Pollard started Pollard Coffee in 2012, roasting her coffee and running the business from home. She met McConnell through her husband, Chris Camarda, and his own business, Andrew Will Winery. Pollard and McConnell connected over their shared love of coffee.
“We developed a bond,” Pollard said. “He’s been very forthcoming in terms of sharing his 25 years of… running a coffee business… He’s really been a mentor for me.”
McConnell approached Pollard about sharing a restaurant space after he purchased the building.
“It seemed like a perfect opportunity to not only grow my direct sales business, but to also have a stronger presence here in the community,” Pollard said. “All the stars lined up.”
The pizza will be made from a family recipe passed down to Vinny DeGrezia, a close friend to McConnell, and the founder of Bensonhurst J & V Pizzeria in Brooklyn. The mozzarella cheese is made from New Jersey cow’s milk and the tomatoes are grown in Napoli.
McConnell is planning to give the restaurant a 1970s aesthetic, contrasting with Pollard Coffee’s planned “modern and country chic” vibe.
“We really wanted to… fit into the whole atmosphere of the island,” she said. “Very casual, approachable, [and] comfortable.”
Liz McConnell, McConnell’s wife and business partner, is helping him bring the pizzeria to life.
McConnell has been in the restaurant business for over 20 years, beginning with the opening of Caffe Vita in Queen Anne back in 1995. Now, 13 cafes exist, open in Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland, and New York. Almost ten years later, pizzeria Via Tribunali was opened. Since then, McConnell has invested in other business such as Big Mario’s Pizza, which he said is similar to the concept of the pizzeria.
“I was … inspired by [my] longtime friend, partner, and iconic restaurateur Peter Lamb,” he said. “Coffee and wine are my passion — the gateway that led to restaurants and a lifetime obsession with pizza.”
However, this is McConnell’s first business venture on Vashon, even though he has a long history of visiting.
“We have frequented Vashon for many years, attracted to the diversity, independent spirit and rural surroundings.”
McConnell will be donating some of their proceeds to local schools and nonprofits such as Vashon Island Pet Protectors and the DOVE Project.
“[Opening the pizzeria is] about giving back to our local community and being able to find really great pizza on the island,” McConnell said.
Additionally, high school students will be given a discount at the pizzeria.