Pellegrini Dining Society takes root at Cafe Lago


Image: © Bob Peterson

Following the legacy of former UW professor and author Angelo Pellegrini, Cafe Lago is reviving the tradition of people gathering with friends around a really big table to eat. In addition to teaching Shakespeare, Pellegrini was a much-loved gardener, mushroom hunter and cook whose influence spread to many well-known local chefs before his recent passing. Organizer Jon Rowley explains:

Angelo Pellegrini didn’t speak English when he immigrated, at the age of 10, with his family to McCleary from Tuscany, yet he went on, but never forgetting his peasant roots, to became a popular Shakespeare professor at the University of Washington, and wrote books on food, wine, gardening and the good life. His spirited convivial dinner parties, where literate conversation, wine made from grapes sent to him by his friend Robert Mondavi and simple but well prepared seasonal food, much from his garden, were legendary in the circles who were lucky enough to know him.

His books had a cult following locally (Armandino Batali, Ron Zimmerman, Greg Atkinson, Matt Dillon, Jerry Traunfeld) and beyond (Henry Miller, MFK Fisher, Ruth Reichl, Paula Wolfert) and yet his name is largely unknown outside his devoted following.
When I learned Angelo and Virginia Pellegrini had been customers of Café Lago in Montlake and that owner Carla Leonardi was just as entranced by the twinkled teaching in Pellegrini’s writing as I was, one thing led to another and together we brainstormed the “Pellegrini Dining Society”. Our vision was small monthly dinners, modeled after Pelegrini’s own table, at Café Lago where conversation and stories around a large table were as much a part of the evening as the simple but well prepared food and the wine. The idea fell together quickly as if it was just waiting to happen.

Tickets for the February 18th dinner are available through Brown Paper Tickets.