Mouthwatering Adriatic

Adriatic Grill is an Italian Cuisine and Wine Bar located on South Steele Street near Tacoma Mall. The Adriatic Grill serves lunch items including: appetizers, an assortment of sandwiches, salads, Italian food including pastas and pizza, to seafood. Dinner items include: appetizers, soups, salads, an assortment of Italian foods, seafood, pork chops, and steak. Desserts range from Italian desserts, ice creams, and cheesecake. Happy hour and lunch and Easter dinner menus are also available online at AdriaticGrill.com. Monique Trudnowski, owner of Adriatic Grill, for four years, explained the history of the restaurant, “Bought it June 25, 2007 it used to be Cucina Cucina Italian café for 17+ years. We ran it as Cucina [restaurant] through the end of 2007; then in February 2008 we closed for 2 weeks and did [an] entire remodel and created the Adriatic grill. Everything in the remodel is brand new. The Adriatic grill menu is brand name, concept, logo everything. We created logo two years before it was open…February 8, 2008 Adriatic Grill was born.”
Monique shared what she thought of the restaurant, “I think it’s somewhere people like to come because they feel comfortable and feel like they’re going to their aunt’s house when they come to recognizing regular guests by name to substantial portions.” She explained the best thing about the restaurant, “The food and the wine [Monique laughs] we feature only Washington and Italian wines. We make everything here every day and it’s just delicious.”
When asked what many people may not know about the restaurant, Monique replied, “That the owners work here 7 days a week. We live in Tacoma, We have children in Tacoma Public School and we care about Tacoma. This is where we live and where our business is.” When asked what items she recommended on the menu, Monique replied, “The Rigatoni Bolognese because that’s why I married him [Monique’s husband the other owner of the restaurant] it’s the first thing he made for me over 12 years ago and I can’t cook and as soon as I had that I figured I either had to marry the guy or steal the recipe.”
Monique explained the loyalty rewards program Adriatic Grill has, “Our loyalty rewards is [our] guest registry instant coupon and [is] rewarded by getting Birthday, Anniversary notifications, and special invitations to chef dinners, cooking classes, or special coupons they get first notice on that. It’s called the Adriatic advantage.” When asked if she recommended the restaurant to her family and friends, Monique replied, “Considering I made all my children work here, absolutely.”
Bill Trudnowski, chef and owner of Adriatic Grill, for four years, shared what he thought of the restaurant, “This restaurant is our life. It’s a culmination of many years of experience and giving something that wasn’t here in the community before. A restaurant is an amazing social entity or type of business and we had three words, warm, comfortable, and friendly when we designed this place. That still holds [true], [a] gathering place for celebration…a European model of a restaurant. Europeans treat [eating] a lot differently more an event and daily special occasion not just going through a drive through. People come here and spend 4, 5, 6 hours…it doesn’t matter; come here relax…80 items on the menu, what [do] you want? Flavor…everything. That’s what we really caught the attention of a lot of people more like your aunt’s house on Sunday dinner. We like to be like that every day. Food should be celebrated and enjoyed at a modern pace, not wolfed down while you’re driving down the freeway. The commitment to holding everything fresh in the back and giving people in this community what they really enjoy. We’re still in business because of our regular guests.”
Bill discussed the best thing about Adriatic Grill, “I mean it’s the food, beverage, and the people. It’s the guests; we’ve come to know hundreds and hundreds of regular guests that have become friends. It’s the challenge of keeping them to come back, it’s stressful a lot of work but a lot of fun, too. Best day is chef menu night [food that’s not on the menu is prepared] 40 to 50 people come every month and want to see what chef Monique and I are thinking of. That’s our avenue to really push them a lot of Italian food is comfort food.
A lady came three months ago who lived in Italy and had the rigatoni and hadn’t had anything similar except in Italy and she’s been back six times since. She’s had it every single time. The food can do that; it’s very emotional, it’s very powerful and can immediately transport [people] 30 years ago when you had this meal with this person…Not a lot of things can do that. That’s the reason to be in the business and [we] really wanna wow. Restaurants are in the entertainment business we gotta wow them with menus, food, décor, I mean the whole 9 yards. It’s very, very, difficult to put in a restaurant people that wanna come back…not your corporate chain restaurant which serve a purpose but I think are not necessary.”
When asked what many people may not know about the restaurant, Bill replied, “I think most everybody knows that it’s a family owned business; they look [at] the size of it [the restaurant] thinking it’s a chain or corporate business. We own it, the business, not the building. [Our] goal [is] to get someone to come back in a week. If they come in once and not come back, you won’t survive…Repeat customers are huge to restaurant business success.”
Bill recommends the following menu items, “[We’re] named after [the] Adriatic sea [I’m] very partial to seafood; being a chef for 30 years to the Seattle/Tacoma area…Fresh sheet (daily specials) that’s when we focus on daily seafood coming out. I kinda push people to seafood items grilled salmon and tilapia. We’re still Italian and still Mediterranean.”
When asked if he would recommend his family and friends to the restaurant, Bill replied, “Yeah, we built it for them; for people we knew would like it…And now it’s amazing how many guests are now our friends and be here to celebrate family Birthday on Monday and on Friday have another family Birthday to celebrate. That’s huge to us that we have somewhat accomplished that…Not very difficult to recommend, something for everybody; that truly is the goal…Spend $6 to $40 small plate, big something for everybody.”
Katie Lasley, front desk manager, at the Adriatic Grill since August 2007, shared what she thought of the restaurant, “It’s great it’s nice to work here because they’re right at your fingertips when you need them and also it’s nice because they are really understanding of what’s going on; it’s like a family…intimate; really understanding and patient.” She described the best thing about the restaurant, “The food [Katie laughs] chef Bill it’s so nice he’s here; everything that comes out of the kitchen is so good. I used to be picky and not eat seafood, but [if] Chef Bill made it I’ll eat it.”
When asked what many people may not know about the restaurant, Katie replied, “We fight to know we’re a locally owned chef owned business, big building near [the] mall. [The] average person drives by thinking we’re a big corporation. I don’t know if people know any community events and support we offer. I handle all the donations and see how much goes out…Any charity we can support we do. I’m the ambassador for the Tacoma and Lakewood Chamber of Commerce’s both and Monique is on the board of directors for the convention and Visitor’s Bureau.” Katie explained Adriatic Grill’s events and programs, “Well our two biggest charities is every February to celebrate our anniversary. We shut down the restaurant and do a huge event (drinks, dinner, dancing, and a lot of prize giveaways)…February 24th this upcoming year I think…nail down [when date gets] closer supports Clover Park Technical College second biggest shut down restaurant…For Thanksgiving and becomes a sit down for down and out people for two years now. Tacoma rescue mission (lost jobs, completely rehabilitated from drug or alcohol use) strict rules to live there back in job market and apartments (helps them). It’s like people you and I either in bad situation and just down and out on their luck. We’ve also supported sweet Willie’s family support (once again people down and out living on their own) wouldn’t be able to provide a Thanksgiving meal for family) we do every year; really every year look forward to. Everything’s set like it is, and served by a server that’s a volunteer. I think those are our two biggest events…Done a lot of things with Chamber of Commerce and we’ve supported a lot of charity events by either attending (Monique just attended a golf tournament, I think for YWCA, and last year we supported the military holiday giving closet helped support our guard and reserve troops that don’t get paid year round and maybe not a job when they come back. We provide a 25% discount all the time happy to give out on an everyday basis as well.”
Katie recommends the following menu items, “My very favorite thing is the carne al fornio pizza it means meats from the oven in Italian. It’s kinda a meat lover’s pizza all the salami, prosciutto, sausage, pepperoni, one layer of tomato sauce and all ingredients in cheese and drizzle of garlic cream that in our pizza oven is so good [Katie laughs]…Kinda indulgent so gotta keep my girlish figure so I eat a lot of salads.” From the drink menu, Katie recommends “Bellini (peach blended drink a little rum, champagne, and boils down peaches and makes mix himself and blend in with ice and splash of sangria…really beautiful and tasty…Especially on a warm day you get so relaxed [Katie laughs] it’s cold and refreshing and after a couple of those you’ll definitely take a taxi home.”
When asked if she recommends the Adriatic Grill to her family and friends, Katie replied, “Oh yeah all the time. My Grandma loves it here; her favorite is smoked scallop penne. Mom and brother were here last week, and my boyfriend works in the restaurant industry, and he’s like ready to say something bad [about the Adriatic Grill] and he can’t.”
The Adriatic Grill is open daily from 11 am to 11 pm. “I think we are [for the] guests first 100% of the time. We really love our guests,” Monique stated. I think we had South Sound magazine come out. I think [we are] most proud of [placing] second place for service against El Gaucho [restaurant]. We’re built on consistency; if you’re looking for a good environment, we’re it. We’re a place to celebrate food, beverage, and people every day, the aspect of cooking, enjoying sitting down with family and friends and be leaders in the community about all that,” Bill added. “Everybody who walks in our door automatically becomes our family; the more people we get here, the more our family grows. I love working here because I just have a huge support system,” Katie concluded.
by Carly Calabrese, Tacoma.com staff writer