Growing up on the Sicilian shoreline in the shadow of Mount Etna, Giuseppe Mauro remembers the boats, the fish markets and his mother and grandmother hanging fresh macaroni on knitting needles to dry.
He developed a love of food and knew that someday he would own a fine restaurant by the water. His dream has come true, but not without years of hard work.
"I started at the hotel school at age 15," Mauro says. "By 18, I had learned advanced preparation and serving techniques, like flambé and tableside carving."
After working in lavish hotel dining rooms throughout Europe and the Caribbean, he moved to the U.S. in 1977. Mauro settled his family on Whidbey Island, where he opened his first restaurant, Trattoria Giuseppe, in 1995.
"We had three kids and it was safe place for a young family to grow, very much like the town where I grew up," he says.
Opportunity took Mauro to downtown Bellingham; in 2002 he opened Giuseppe's on Commercial Street. Unfortunately, a fire closed the wildly successful restaurant just before Christmas 2004. When he reopened nearly a year later on Cornwall Avenue, much of his staff returned.
"They are very dedicated to this place and to me," Mauro says. "They are proud of the food they serve."
When the Port of Bellingham began plans for a new building on Bellwether Way, Mauro saw his chance to run a restaurant by the water. In 2010, the new Giuseppe's opened, with enormous windows that overlook Bellingham Bay and Squalicum Harbor, and a wind-screened patio that seats up to 100 for al fresco dining on summer days.
The open kitchen serves the "freshest seafood," Mauro says, plus rack of lamb, roast duckling, pork, chicken, salads and pasta dishes. Specials range from the exotic to halibut on risotto or lobster ravioli.
Mauro, who credits many of the dishes to the skill of his chef, enjoys going table to table, greeting customers and helping them choose from more than 100 wines.
"When people walk out and they say they loved the food, ambiance and service, there is nothing that can make you happier," he says.
Giuseppe's Al Porto Ristorante Italiano
Owner: Giuseppe Mauro
Location: 21 Bellwether Way, Suite 112, Bellingham
Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Happy hour and early dinner: 3 to 6 p.m.
Dinner: 5 p.m.
Taimi Dunn Gorman is a Bellingham freelance writer.