Three Pigs Deli

Walking into new Three Pigs, it didn’t take long to find this diminutive deli’s namesakes–one pig was lying in the breakfast sandwich, one pig was floating in the soup, and one pig was tumbled up in a meatball. And they were all delicious.

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Tucked firmly into the same Empress building crevice that formerly housed beloved Sahagún chocolate shop (NW 16th and Burnside), chef/owner Ralph Capalupo’s fetching Three Pigs deli sports a fresh-faced makeover, charmingly compact dining room, and pithy-but-thorough chalkboard wall menu.

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Breakfast currently consists of a breakfast sandwich, banana-cherry bread baked fresh daily by Stephanie King of Kitchen Kids at Storied Ridge Farms, and coffee from nearby Coffeehouse Northwest; while the lunch region of the menu unfurls slightly more elaborately–a smattering of sandwiches both tried ‘n true (ham & cheddar, Cubano) and intriguing (summer squash with Cotija cheese, broccoli & ricotta), hoof-sized Wagyu meatballs with delicate angel-wing toast points, a soup or two, and a perfectly-dressed Caesar salad.

The breakfast sandwich, a hot brick of pressed Grand Central Bakery bread spread with a tangy whole grain & dijon mustard sauce and cradling feathery soft-scrambled eggs folded with a two year-aged Cabot cheddar, comes with an optional Pig upgrade–add ham or housemade bacon for an extra dollar.

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The soup spectrum runs from hearty–behold the bean and bacon, to elegant–a light summer corn chowder with cilantro and pink peppercorn.

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The Wagyu meatballs are something to reckon with, dripping with Capalupo’s fresh marinara sauce and served with toast wings. Add a side of expertly-dressed, parmesan-dusted Caesar salad for a dose of roughage-related virtue.

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Three Pigs’ seating is very exclusive (okay, slightly limited) but you can share the window bar with a handful of friends or your favorite barbershop quartet–provided none of you are triple-wide rugby types, it seats a half dozen-or-so Pig fiends.

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From your window perch, glance over yonder, and by yonder I mean roughly three paces to the east with your shoelaces tied together, and you’ll see chef Ralph Capalupo reigning proudly over his sparkling kitchen, rocking out to the Rolling Stones while drafting up catering menus on sheets of butcher paper.

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Originally from Utica, New York, Capalupo grew up in a boisterous Italian family where spending the entire day banging about in the kitchen was commonplace.

“One of my oldest memories is standing on a chair watching my grandmother stir a pot of meatballs, with Pavarotti playing and Julia Child on in the background. I’m from a big Italian family and they’re all such good cooks and that’s what you do all day–you cook,” he said.

Predictably, his first job was in the restaurant industry, at a New York fish fry house (“For some reason, I still like being in a kitchen,” he says of the the experience). But when he showed an aptitude for music and decided to major in classical piano in college, he left the stove for the ivories. After career detours as a professional pianist and pop band keyboardist, Capalupo found his way west to the Pacific Northwest and back into the kitchen, landing at Southpark, then moving on to become the executive chef of Noble Rot, and most recently, serving as sous chef at Urban Farmer.

“I think about asparagus in the shower,” he says ruefully, admitting that his return to cooking was inevitable.

Itching to man his own kitchen, Capalupo took the leap when the Three Pigs spot became available, and remodeled the entire space himself with the help of his business partner, lining the back walls with gleaming white subway tiles and lovingly polishing the golden hardwood floors. The neighborhood has been welcoming, with passerby poking their snouts in to investigate the source of the sizzling bacon aroma.

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In the near future, Capalupo plans to secure a liquor license, pair up with local brewers and vintners to host beer and wine dinners, and offer weekend brunch. In the long term, he also intends to build out the eatery’s basement space into a production facility, where he’ll craft a variety of charcuterie, patés, terrines and other meaty whatnot. Considering the restaurant’s limited real estate, the former pianist does not yet have plans to bring in a Steinway.

“Ironically, the French call the stove the piano in a classical kitchen,” Capalupo points out.

Three Pigs * 10 NW 16th Ave. * Mon-Sat 7:30am – 7:30pm (Saturday hours are still in flux, so call and double check) * 503.227.3575 * Website pending