As one Bellingham landmark restaurant announces it’s closing, another ready to move in

Giuseppe’s Al Porto to close its doors after 17 years

Giuseppe Mauro, the owner of Giuseppe's Al Porto on Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Wash., announced that he will retire after 17 years, and the Italian restaurant will close July 30, 2019.
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Giuseppe Mauro, the owner of Giuseppe's Al Porto on Squalicum Harbor in Bellingham, Wash., announced that he will retire after 17 years, and the Italian restaurant will close July 30, 2019.

Giuseppe’s Al Porto Ristorante Italiano, a landmark in Bellingham’s restaurant scene the past 17 years, announced via Facebook Thursday, June 27, that it will be closing its doors permanently next month.

Owner Giuseppe Mauro said that he will be retiring and selling the business.

“We have shared great food, delicious wine, wonderful people, fun times and hard work,” Mauro wrote in the post. “I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported me, and I hope to see you before we close our doors on Tuesday, July 30. I have great pride in how Giuseppe’s has served the Bellingham community.”

Purchasing the business is Lombardi’s Italian Restaurant — a business with locations at the Everett Marina and Mill Creek, according to its website, that opened in 1987 with the idea of serving fresh seasonal dishes and flavors inspired by restaurateur Diane Symms’ travels through Italy.

“We’re really delighted that Giuseppe accepted our offer,” Symms told The Bellingham Herald. “It’s a great restaurant and people love it. Anytime you mention it to people around Bellingham, people know it and they like to go there. We think that is important, and we want to continue to meet that need.”

Symms said Lombardi’s is tentatively scheduled to open before the end of September.

Before then, she said they are working with local vendors to refine the space at 21 Bellwether Way, opening up the entry, setting the private dining area in glass so that it has a view of the Squalicum Harbor waterfront, increasing the size of the bar, changing the awnings and signage, painting, bringing in new furniture and making changes to the kitchen.

“We think the restaurant has some really good bones,” Symms told The Herald.

She said Lombardi’s will continue to use the patio space, and even is looking into adding an outside table with a fire pit.

Symms said the idea to open a third location really began to take hold when she took her management team on a two-week trip to Italy last spring.

“We liked the potential of Bellingham,” said Symms, who has family in Canada and regularly passes through Whatcom County. “We looked at the ... Granary Building, but it wasn’t quite ready, and it’s harder to open a brand new space and build clientele rather than purchase something that fits your sense of the market.”

Finding a location on the waterfront, like the one in Everett, also interested the team, Symms said.

The Bellingham location’s menu will resemble the Everett Marina menu, Symms said, and it will probably be approximately 20% smaller than Guiseppe’s and a little less expensive. She said Lombardi’s also will offer pizza and plans to continue Guiseppe’s private dining room business and holiday features.

Symms said she and some of her staff were in Bellingham Thursday when Mauro announced his plans to retire to the staff. She said she and her team “are hoping to keep many of Giuseppe’s amazing employees,” and many expressed interest in returning when Lombardi’s opens.

“We are pleased to be able to follow in Giuseppe’s footsteps with this beautiful waterfront location,” Symms told The Herald. “Italian food and hospitality are our passion, as was Giuseppe’s.”

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David Rasbach joined The Bellingham Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news. He has been an editor and writer in several western states since 1994.