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The Heart of Italy

By Keegan Prosser on December 20, 2012 – No Comment


When Don Curtiss and Michelle Quisenberry were married in a little town in Tuscany, Italy they fell in love with more than each other. The town of 11,000 was more than a wedding destination, it was the inspiration for their award-winning, highly acclaimed Italian restaurant: Volterra.

Curtiss and Quisenberry opened their second Volterra restaurant in Kirkland this past September, nearly seven-and-a-half years after their first location in Ballard.

“We immediately knew Kirkland was the best place for us,” Quisenberry says. “If you could replicate the location of Volterra in Ballard, Kirkland is the best.”

The new location was specifically chosen so Eastside residents are able to access their restaurant without having to make the trek across the 520 bridge. Quisenberry says Kirkland is similar to Ballard in that it’s near the water, holds farmers markets and has a neighborhood, pedestrian-oriented feel.

The two Magnolia residents commuted back and forth for six months during the restaurant’s remodel. Quisenberry says their Kirkland location has a more modern design than the Ballard location, which is “rustic and historic.” The new restaurant also has an open kitchen, but she says they tied similar design elements to connect the two.

Quisenberry says since they opened their Kirkland location in September they’ve been quite busy.

“Dinners are very full,” she notes. “But we just started opening for lunch three weeks ago.”

She says they are still trying to get the word out that they offer lunch. Their lunch menu is “more casual” and offers sandwiches, salads and pasta.

But the Wild Boar Tenderloin keeps customers coming back for dinner. The signature dish with gorgonzola mustard sauce is the favorite among Eastside customers as well as those in Ballard, she says.

“The Eastside clientele really likes to enjoy their dinner. The experience is much more leisurely,” she says. “In Ballard, guests tend to dine before another event.”

Quisenberry says Eastsiders tend to order more Washington wine while those in Ballard stick with Italian.

Aside from those differences, the Volterra in Kirkland is sure to give customers the same experience that critics, such as Rachael Ray, have deemed their “favorite restaurant on the planet.”

Volterra’s chef Curtiss draws his inspiration from his Italian mother as well as his love for Italy’s fine cuisine. Although Curtiss was trained in French cooking and holds an accounting degree, he continues to travel to Italy to get new ideas and meet with different producers.

“Don is amazing because he has this ability to balance his creativity and business savvy,” Quisenberry says of her husband. “Ultimately we want our guests to have an outstanding experience every time they come to Volterra.”

In two years, the couple hopes to spend their 10-year anniversary in Volterra, Italy.

Volterra is located at 121 Kirkland Ave. in Kirkland. Contact them at 425-202-7201 or email