Owner and chef Jonathan Sutton tells tales of local food through his recipes.
“Storia Cucina means kitchen story,” Jonathan Sutton, owner, founder and chef of Storia Cucina said. “Every dish has something to it.”
Sutton is not a Bellingham native but was born and raised on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands. That connection was part of what brought him to Bellingham when he was ready to leave his previous restaurant in San Francisco.
“I started falling in love with Bellingham,” Sutton said. “I was super impressed with all of the [food] products available here.”
However, Sutton felt that despite the strength of the food scene in and around Bellingham, something was missing.
“I felt like Storia Cucina would bring something new and exciting to the community while using all the amazing products that the area has to offer,” Sutton said.
Sutton initially took notice of the food scene around Bellingham because of his future business partner and chef-de-cuisine at Storia Cucina, Arlen Coiley.
“I took him to the [Cainspring] mill and he said, ‘Wow, you could create a restaurant concept with just this flour,’” Coiley said.
Cainspring Mills is a flour mill in Burlington founded by local farmers, development leaders and bakers, according to their website.
Coiley also grew up on Lopez Island, where they met.
“Jonathan is seven years older than me,” Coiley said. “When I started getting interested in cooking as a career, Jonathan was in culinary school.”
Coiley eventually worked for Sutton in San Francisco before working for him here in Bellingham.
Sutton said it feels like he has taken him under his wing.
As chefs, Sutton has a vision: “Simple, affordable, approachable,” Sutton said. “We use the best, highest quality ingredients we can find.”
“Everything here speaks to what Italian cooking is,” Coiley said.
Sutton and Coiley are not the only people excited about what Storia Cucina is doing.
“We’re really excited to have them,” said Jenny Hagemann, co-owner of the neighboring Thousand Acre Cider House. “Their food is fantastic, and Jonathan, as well as Arlan, are just fabulous human beings.”
Hagemann said she is excited about the future the two restaurants will share.
“My hopes and dreams are that after COVID-19, folks are able to enjoy a beautiful Italian dinner and then come next door for a show and drinks,” Hagemann said.
Storia Cucina has felt the support of the Bellingham community, but what’s next for the restaurant and its owner isn’t clear, Sutton said.
“Right now, with COVID, I’m not trying to expand,” Sutton said, adding that building Storia Cucina’s existing community was a priority at the moment.
Opening during COVID-19 was an unexpected challenge to face early on, but they may be stronger for it, Sutton said.
“The main advantage of opening any business right now is that businesses that successfully open in an economic downturn have a much higher long-term survival rate than businesses opened in boom times,” said CJ Seitz, director of the WWU Small Business Development Center.
Bellingham hosts many small businesses like Storia Cucina, and each one needs to find a way to connect with the local community to succeed, Seitz said.
“Bellingham hosts a remarkably diverse consumer base,” Seitz said. “Each segment experiences economic changes differently and has different needs.”
Storia Cucina wants to be a space where everyone can experience classic Italian dining with a story, Sutton said.
“It has been the most wild and rewarding experience of my life,” Coiley said.