Visitors to Walla Walla wine country: Are you looking for fine dining with a local flair? Wondering what might be a good restaurant for a date, family gathering, or special occasion during your stay at Walla Faces? A few blocks away from our downtown inns is T. Maccarone’s, a self-described “modern Washington wine country bistro influenced by classic Italian sensibilities,” perfect for all these occasions and more.
I had the chance recently to sit down with owner and general manager Tom Maccarone in his beautiful blue and grey dining room. Born and raised here in Walla Walla, Tom opened the restaurant in 2005. He moved away to Seattle for years, working for Nordstrom’s and Eddie Bauer, before returning to his hometown and pursuing his true passion in the restaurant business.
From at big Italian family, Tom says that the restaurant initially served a lot of his own grandmother’s recipes and more traditional Italian food, but that the menu has changed and grown as he’s brought on new chefs and grown the business. These days, Tom says head chef Gerry Mezza is whipping up new delicacies all the time. “Yes, we have bolognese, tagliatelle, and we use gnocchi, but we have a lot of things that we play with curry, and have a lot of Asian-inspired food. So, you know, you have to stay relevant in the business, you have to stay on top of things, stay a step above what everyone is doing.”
Since we were already on the topic of the menu, I asked Tom about his favorite thing to order.
At first he just laughed. “Ohh, that’s tough. Probably my go to is the bolognese. It’s been on the menu for five, seven years… there are certain things that we just cannot change or take off the menu. For something lighter, not so filling, the halibut is just drop dead. For a mix, there’s the Land and Sea—it’s two beautiful lamb chops and two seared scallops. But there is nothing on the menu that I wouldn’t order!” I would have to agree—everything I’ve tried so far at T. Maccarone’s has exceeded my expectations, from the fresh, tangy pear and arugula salad to the rich and creamy lamb gnocchi.
It’s A Local Thing
T. Maccarone’s strives to serve “everything local we can get,” including everything from meat to eggs to herbs to, of course, wine. But the business is a love letter to Walla Walla in more ways than just its menu.
“I have a huge local following, ‘cause I was born and raised here,” Tom explained, rattling off a long list of friends, relatives, schoolmates, teachers, and other relations who regularly visit the restaurant. “It’s endless!”
“I’m really the only person that has this caliber of a restaurant in Walla Walla who was born and raised here… It’s an old community, it’s an old town, so the heritage here is strong and long.”
Tom reflects that the familial feel of T. Maccarone’s is one of the things he tries hardest to create in his day-to-day work as the face of the restaurant. Even if customers are from out-of-town, he hopes to include them in the community when they visit T. Mac’s.
“My whole philosophy with this business is that I want people to feel at home here, I want them to feel comfortable, I want them to feel like they’re at my house having dinner. So the experience is me coming over to them, saying hello, asking them where they’re from, talking to them, making them feel welcome.”
The chefs, waiters, and staff all come together at T. Maccarone’s to make Tom’s vision come to life. The fresh, local food that is simultaneously classic and new, along with the modern and comfortable space and friendly faces, make this one of my favorite places in town to “go out.”
“Good food, good wine, good friends, and good atmosphere equals success to me,” Tom told me, looking around the room with a smile. We think so too!
T. Maccarone’s is located at 4 N. Colville Street, Walla Walla WA 99362, and is open daily 11:30-9pm for lunch and dinner. Call them at (509) 522-4776, or visit them online at http://tmaccarones.com/.