The Dumpster out front was the first sign that the Cliff House is about to get a makeover for its reopening this winter after being closed for most of 2011.
It’s about time that the dated decor disappeared. Diners are ready for a change. OK, well, I’m ready for a change. I reviewed the restaurant in October 2010, and I noted the building was showing serious wear.
Giuseppe “Joe” Nappo, best known for his Federal Way restaurant Verrazano’s, is in the process of restoring the building and continuing its legacy of prom-night dining, waterfront views and upscale regional cuisine. He plans a January 2012 reopening.
The Cliff House first opened in 1925 and is a restaurant with serious history in Northeast Tacoma. But it has suffered through revolving operators for the last two years. It first closed in December 2009 while in the care of operator Robert Denny. Then Sue Glenn, owner of Gig Harbor’s Green Turtle, operated the Cliff House from around June 2010 until January 2011 when it closed again. In the spring I interviewed another woman by phone who said she was remodeling the Cliff House, but she stopped returning my phone calls. I still don’t know what happened to her.
Here’s what’s happening now: Nappo told me he purchased the Cliff House from Guido Brendicke, who owned the Cliff House for more than 30 years. Said Nappo, “It’s got great bones and everything else, it needed to be updated.” However, he added, “this is such an institution, it’s got such history, I’m treading lightly on what I will be doing and what I won’t be doing.” That means it will be updated, but change will be modest. The wood accents will remain. The basic layout of the dining room will remain. But the bathrooms have been taken down to the studs. And Nappo is creating a bar upstairs.
Both upstairs and downstairs will serve the same menu, Nappo told me by phone. That menu, he said, will provide multiple price points, with some dinner entrees in the mid-teens, and some topping out at $30. Most prices will hover in the high teens to $20s.
The restaurant will serve lunch daily with affordable options in the $10 range, he said.
The menu will look like what Cliff House regulars would expect: “regionally inspired, but with international flare,” said Nappo, who has owned Verrazano’s for about 17 years and also owns the Copper Falls restaurant in Auburn, which opened about three years ago.
The Cliff House Restaurant
Where: 6300 Marine View Drive, Tacoma
Opening: Sometime in January