As the daughter of a military father, Lombardi’s founder and owner Diane Symms spent her childhood traveling the world, tasting food from France, Italy, and Switzerland. Symms eventually ended up in Seattle, where she opened the first Lombardi’s in Ballard in 1987. Her life has been restaurants ever since.
Symms had been considering a location in Bellingham for some time, so when she heard that Giuseppe’s Al Porto was closing, plans began to solidify in earnest. In October, Lombardi’s officially opened its third location in the Bellwether store front where Giuseppe’s used to be. (Loyal Giuseppe’s customers will be happy to know that Symms kept on numerous staff members.) The newly renovated space is cheerful yet classy, with large windows overlooking the marina.
In the kitchen you’ll find Chef Andy Hilliard, who started at the restaurant’s Everett location in 2014. Before the Bellingham restaurant opened, Symms took Hilliard and a few other kitchen staff on a two-week trip to Italy for the sole purpose of eating and learning about authentic Italian cuisine.
(Tough job, right?) That’s the kind of dedication Symms brings to each of her Lombardi’s locations, and it shows.
All the pasta at Lombardi’s comes from Italy, and most of the dishes are made-to-order, featuring fresh, local ingredients from Washington. The restaurant also boasts an extensive drink menu with cocktails, craft beers, and wines from the Pacific Northwest and Italy (on Tuesdays, bottles are half off).
For a classic dish, try the Chicken Marsala ($21), which has been on Lombardi’s menu for more than 25 years. The hand-cut, cooked-to-order chicken breasts are juicy and tender, covered in a flavorful marsala wine sauce and served with a generous portion of fettuccine. Another delicious staple, the Penne Siciliana ($20), is slightly spicy and features two shapes of Italian sausage, for varied texture.
My personal favorite was the Sicilian Lamb Meatballs ($22). These flavorful house-made meatballs are served over pappardelle and topped with slices of red grape, pecorino cheese, and mint. The dish’s warmth and sweetness come from its sauce, which is made from caramelized onions, figs, oranges, and spiced with nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. The flavors are inspired by Moroccan, Greek, and Sicilian cuisine and come together in a truly unparalleled dish.
Pizza lovers will be happy to find an assortment of Neapolitan-style pies made with fresh yeast and San Marzano tomatoes. The Prosciutto e Funghi Pizza ($17) expertly layers Prosciutto di Parma with thick slices of wild mushrooms for a delectable combination of salty and savory. You won’t want to skip the crust, which is chewy and flavorful rather than thin and crispy.
For a richer, creamier meal, try the Tortellini Gorgonzola ($20), stuffed with four kinds of cheese and tossed with walnuts, basil, and gorgonzola crumbles. Meat-and-potato-types will be in heaven with the Grilled Pork Chop ($27) served with fingerling potatoes. The chop comes bone-in,perfectly-cooked, and is topped with a unique apricot demi-glaze.
If you like what you eat (and you will), you can also reserve Lombardi’s for your next party. The restaurant offers two spaces, a large private dining room that seats up to 70 and a cozier room that seats up to 16. 21 Bellwether Way, Ste. 112, Bellingham, 360.714.8412, lombardisitalian.com
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