Partners Norberto Corona and Daniel Cohanim teamed up to reopen Park Place as an Italian restaurant. Corona is executive chef.
Partners Norberto Corona and Daniel Cohanim teamed up to reopen Park Place as an Italian restaurant. Corona is executive chef.

Park Place is back, but not the same.

New owners Daniel Cohanim and Norberto Corona have made subtle changes to Park Place’s look — not counting the exterior — but the restaurant is now an Italian bistro, at a lower price point and less fussy fare than its previous concept.

Cohanim opened his Panini Grill Cafe in Seattle back in 1997, where he met Corona, who was working for the bakery that delivered his focaccia. Corona had come from New York, where he’d worked in several kitchens. Cohanim brought Corona on board to help broaden his menu and teach him about baking. After three years, Cohanim sold Corona his business and moved to Guatemala, where he ran a macadamia nut facility for several years.

When Cohanim returned to Seattle, the panini restaurant had closed and Corona was working in the kitchen at Carmine’s in Bellevue, putting in a dozen years there.

“Every year, I would say to him, ‘When are we opening a business,’” Corona said. “He’s a good guy, and we like doing business together.”

Cohanim was burning the candle at both ends, working nights prepping the kitchen for Aegis Living, and cooking for the Skyline Retirement Community in First Hill during the day.

“I was literally running on empty,” he said.

Corona had already found Park Place up for sale when Cohanim called him and said he was ready to start a restaurant together.

The previous owners, Kristin and Tim Shea, needed to move back to Lopez Island to deal with family matters. Corona and Cohanim acquired the spot on 43rd Avenue East in February, taking over the Sheas’ remaining two-year lease and executing their option for a five-year extension.

The new Park Place has been in a soft-opening phase since May 6, and will have a grand opening next week.

“We didn’t realize we were filling such a niche,” Cohanim said, “but, apparently, everyone in Madison Park wanted an Italian restaurant.”

Park Place’s previous menu had been an amalgam of American, Italian and French, but is now strictly Italian. And, yes, Park Place still uses white tablecloths; another request by community members, Cohanim said.

The restaurant didn’t need any structural changes, and Cohanim called the previously underutilized wood-fired oven a gift. They use it for pizzas, flatbread, roasting vegetables and finishing several dishes.

“At the moment, the name is working for us,” he said, “and I think it made for an easier transition for people.”

An obvious sign Park Place had changed hands was when the white exterior transformed to a more lime green, which Cohanim said was supposed to be olive.

“I jokingly tell people that we’re advertising for Bellevue,” he said of the new paint job.

Popular menu items so far have been the spaghetti Bolognese, pasta de la casa, bianca pizza and eggplant parmesan.

“Everything has to be unique, and everything has to be fresh,” Cohanim said. “You’re not getting six pastas that have an ingredient change but taste pretty much the same.”

Corona said he welcomes special requests.

“That’s part of the job, making everybody happy,” he said.

All of the sauces, salad dressings, cakes, panna cotta and dough are made in house.

“The pasta is one thing we don’t do, I’m going to say yet,” Cohanim said.

Park Place Italian Bistro is open for lunch and dinner Monday-Friday, and dinner on Saturday. Look for restaurant updates on Facebook and Instagram.