28 Years and Counting: Andiamo’s Legacy in the Heart of Bellevue
As one of the oldest restaurants in Downtown Bellevue, Andiamo has been serving up classic Italian dishes to loyal customers – all through growth, change and challenge. While this longstanding Bellevue institution certainly experienced a bit of all three during each of its 28 years, the pandemic has been an unexpected test of resiliency. Chef and owner Reyes Camino didn’t know what to expect when the stay-at-home order first hit, but she did know three things: her recipes came from the heart, her customers felt like family, and the restaurant would be back open for business as soon as it could.
Andiamo is known for classic, fresh Italian dishes inspired by the essentials: the best produce, seafood, meats, garlic and olive oil. Quality and a love for the classics also describe their service, with candle-lit tables and white linens greeting patrons. This reputation has kept the restaurant thriving over the years, and in normal times, it was a common sight to find the dining room filled with groups of regulars out for a nice evening. Having to shut down for weeks on end was a sudden and difficult change.
“Initially, it was a shock,” Camino said. “I never imagined we’d arrive at the point where we had to close and that the crisis was going to last so long.”
While closing was difficult, Camino knew the stay-at-home order was the best way to keep customers and staff safe. Eventually, as businesses began to reopen, she made plans to bring Andiamo back to the community – first with takeout, and now with in-person dinner service.
“It took me about three weeks to make the decision to open for just takeout,” Camino said. “Takeout was just a small percentage of our sales and we suddenly found ourselves needing to expand it.”
To adapt, Camino worked with her team to install a new online ordering system and partner with local delivery services. And when in-person dining became an option, she expanded her patio and implemented thorough sanitation and social distancing practices to keep customers safe. But, reconnecting with customers and getting the word out was just as important, she found.
“When we decided to open initially the streets were totally empty, so we put signs on all of the windows and did whatever we could,” Camino said. “To my surprise, people were glad! Because we’ve been here for so long, many customers told me they were really happy we were here and still in business. It was so kind.”
With their takeout and delivery operations expanded and outdoor dining available, Andiamo’s regulars have began returning. Camino said she’s happy to see her customers again as restaurants need the support now more than ever.
We’re here, we’re strong, but we need them,” Camino said. “We’re here to serve the community and move forward.”
Even during the pandemic, Andiamo has continued to offer their entire menu of expansive classic dishes to ensure the experience remains the same. This is one of the things that sets Andiamo apart from many newer restaurants: instead of a streamlined menu using many of the same ingredients, Andiamo’s dishes are unique and require extensive preparation and skill to execute. Camino credits her longtime sous chef, Alfredo Vazquez, for making it possible and building their relationship with customers.
“Our menu is extensive and it’s what our regular customers come back to,” Camino said. “He’s been with me for more than 10 years, and because we have an open kitchen and he’s been with me for so long, regular customers often identify Andiamo with him. He’s a fantastic chef.”
Popular menu items include their classic Spaghetti Bolognese and the northwest-inspired capellini with shrimp and crab. The food is a big part of why Andiamo has been successful in the community, but Camino also says Bellevue’s vibrancy makes it an ideal place to build a sense of community.
“What I like is that it’s a vibrant community, a growing community,” Camino said. “We get a mixture of customers from all over. They’re neighbors, workers, or from other cities nearby. We’re in the middle of it all.”
And with 28 years to show for it, we recommend you head down for dinner at Andiamo as soon as possible – you’ll be in for a treat, and hard-pressed not to become a regular yourself."
This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.