From a Lumber Mill’s Grocery to a Neapolitan Pizzeria

Modern satellite image

First built in the early 1900’s Taylor Mill’s Grocery appeared along Lake Washington’s Southern shore. Built and owned by Stanford Taylor, who ran a lumber mill around present day Rainier Avenue, the small grocery store supplied food and other goods for the 100 mill workers and their families which lived in the surrounding area. Taylor Mill’s Grocery, located at “the corner of 68th and Rainier,” served the community not just as a grocery store but also “as [a] post office, watering hole, and unofficial community center.” It was a surprisingly successful grocery store in the developing Rainier Beach region, and managed to stay open into the 1930’s.

The Barlows-Lakeside Tavern

After officially closing in 1937, the building remained mostly unused. In the 1950’s the building was converted into the Lakeside Tavern, becoming an official ‘watering hole’ for the Rainier Beach community. During the years between the 1930’s and 50’s, the building switched ownership and by the time the tavern was opened by the Barlow family the building was owned by the Punsala family. The tavern remained in operation for over 40 years, and was a well-known bar in the Rainier beach region, if the number of patrons returning to the now Pizzeria recounting stories of drunken absurdity is anything to go by. The tavern was also well known due to the fact that the sign hanging outside on the side of the building was upside down. Vince Mottola, current owner of Pizzeria Pulcinella, recounts the disagreement between the owner of the Lakeside Tavern, Mr. Barlow, and the man installing the sign, stating that the two came to a disagreement over payment and in protest over receiving only half of the agreed payment the man installing the sign flipped one side of it upside down and refused to correct it unless he was paid the other half. Exhausted by the repeated exchanges between the sign company and himself, the owner left the sign upside down and from then on it was known throughout the community as the tavern with the upside-down sign, a tradition that Pizzeria Pulcinella’s owners honor and they continue the tradition with their own sign.

The building remained vacant for over 10 years slowly deteriorating away, until the Mottola Family, which have owned and operated the Vince’s Italian restaurant chain for around 60 years, chose to expand their business and open an authentic and verified, Neapolitan style Pizzeria in December of 2008. Surprising many in the community as it was rumored that the Punsala family who owned the building (also known as Kamagon Associate LLC), were going to have the building torn down. But luckily Vince convinced
the owners to allow him and his other business partners, Fred Martichuski and David Dorough, to open a restaurant instead. Not only have they preserved the building itself, but also, they have managed to install the previous Lakeside Tavern’s sign inside of their restaurant preserving its history as well. Pizzeria Pulcinella has now been in operation for over 8 years and “has been ‘certified Neapolitan’ by the Verace Pizza Napolitana Association since 2009.” And hopefully it will be open for many more!

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