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(Image: Kristina Gray Photography)

Who needs Italy when we have Bar Cicotti in Bellingham?

If you drop everything and head to SeaTac right now, it would take you somewhere around 15 hours to land in Italy and find your way to a piazza for a pastry and an espresso. Alternatively, you could hop in the car and drive north for about 90 minutes and end up at Bellingham’s Bar Cicotti. While it's not exactly Italy, it does a fantastic job replicating the feel and authentic flavors we love from Italy.

“I hear this all the time - especially the way Bar Cicotti is laid out with outdoor seating in a little courtyard - it feels like a little piazza out here, a little Italy,” said Jonathan Cicotti, owner of Bar Cicotti.

Located inside of the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building and extending into the intimate courtyard, Bar Cicotti is an idyllic mix of authentic Italian cuisine and drinks. It’s an instant trip to Italy for a morning espresso and pastry or come evening, an Italian spritz paired with risotto.

“Bar Cicotti is based on the Italian espresso bars,” Cicotti said. “They're open all day for coffee and you can get a little pastry in the morning, but then at night time it transfers into more of a place to hang out drinking wine.”

Cicotti’s Italian heritage and his visits to Italy served as inspiration to open Bar Cicotti, replicating the menu and feel of a neighborhood espresso bar in Italy.

While much of the wine list features vino from Italy, the rest of Bar Cicotti’s ingredients are sourced from local producers and organic farms. For breakfast, choose between a bombolini, the sweet Italian donut filled with vanilla custard. Or go the savory route with a pizzette, an adorable pizza sized perfectly to get the morning started right. Ricotta toast with almonds, local honey, and sea salt is a fantastic choice, too. Of course, breakfast wouldn’t be complete without an Italian-style espresso made from Bellingham-local coffee.

Once it’s time to pop some bottles, Bar Cicotti specializes in Italian spritz cocktails. Prosecco bubbles join forces with vermouth, a few slices of citrus, topped with sparkling water make for a wonderful summer evening relaxing at Bar Cicotti’s piazza. When hunger strikes, dive into a truffle grilled cheese or risotto with parmigiano reggiano and black pepper. If you’re in the mood for sharing, Bar Cicotti’s platters truly bring an authentic Italian experience whether you go with the salumi platter, formaggio platter or the grande’s perfect combination of both.

The bar is not Cicotti’s first restaurant to share his family’s Italian recipes. He also owns Storia Cucina, just a few blocks away from Bar Cicotti, and both feature dishes from Cicotti’s own family recipe book.

“Every Italian has their family recipes,” Cicotti said. “A lot of them are traditional recipes from different regions, but every family makes them a little bit different. A lot of foundation like the sauces come from that recipe book when I’m writing the menu or looking for inspiration.”

While enjoying some of the Cicotti’s family recipes, you’ll be dining on ceramic flatware that Cicotti handmade.

“It was a dream of mine to make all my ceramics for my place, and I realized this is perfect because it's coffee style and not a huge space so I could actually make all the plateware and bowls and cups,” Cicotti said.

While the bar is fulfilling Cicotti’s dream of running his own intimate Italian coffee and wine bar with handmade ceramics, it’s fulfilling our dream of sipping wine in a spectacular courtyard at sunset, and so much easier to get to than Italy.

Bar Cicotti is located at 202 Grand Ave in Bellingham with additional access from the Whatcom Museum Lightcatcher building. It’s open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m.