RACHEL BELLE

Popular Burien restaurant gets proactive, makes big changes to prepare for reopening

May 28, 2020, 5:53 AM | Updated: 11:26 am
Burien restaurant...
Frank and Sue Genzale pose next to Frankie's B-Town Bistro's newly built partitions, designed to help with social distancing. (Photo courtesy of Frankie's B-Town Bistro)
(Photo courtesy of Frankie's B-Town Bistro)

Frank and Sue Genzale own Frankie’s B-Town Bistro, an Italian restaurant in Burien.

“We grew up here, we see a lot of our high school friends,” Frank said. “Sue and I have been dating since the 8th grade.”

Frank says his family started selling produce at Pike Place Market in 1928, and he and his wife opened Frank’s Quality Produce there in 1979. Why did they decide to open a restaurant after years of selling produce?

“God only knows!” Frank and Sue laugh. “Urging from all our friends out here. Between the two of us, we know pretty much everybody in Burien. We’re here [at the restaurant] every night, we love it.”

Thanks to their landlord, Key Bank, freezing their rent, Frankie’s B-Town Bistro has been eking by doing takeout, with only a couple of employees and reduced hours. I asked Frank how much money they’re making now compared to normal, pre-quarantine times.

“We never made any money!” Frank laughs. “This is a work of love or a love of work, one or the other. No, we’re only doing 20% of what we were doing before. It’s just takeout.”

But Frank and Sue didn’t open the restaurant to do takeout. They miss seeing their community fill up the dining room with their graduation and birthday parties, enjoying plates piled high with spaghetti and meatballs made with his family recipes.

WA restaurants prepare for new challenges presented by dine-in rules

“We’re more interested in having our friends and family come back to enjoy a meal with us.”

Eager to reopen, whenever it’s allowed, the couple is looking ahead and planning for the future. They asked their loyal customers what changes they’d like to see.

“We have about 3,500 people on our email list and I launched a survey asking our customers what would make them most comfortable dining in with us again,” said Michele Smith, the restaurant’s wine director. “They just want social distancing and cleanliness. So [Frank] constructed these partitions in the restaurant around every table and reduced the capacity by 50%. No one had to tell them to do it, they just did it, so I’m really proud of these guys.”

Frank built wood partitions to match the restaurant’s decor, turning every table into a private booth.

“We put Plexiglas up around our pizza window, Plexiglas partitions in the entryway, lots of Plexiglas partitions outside so that people will not come in contact with each other unless they get up, climb over the wall, and sneeze on someone,” Frank joked. “But it’s what our customers want. I think they’ll be comfortable with it. We’ll be sanitizing tables and chairs after people leave.”

Staff will wear masks and gloves, menus and condiments will be disposable, and they’ll make any other changes or upgrades Governor Inslee recommends.

“Honestly, I feel real good about it,” Frank said. “I like the way it turned out. We did it on a temporary basis, everything can be removed if it has to be. It’s very comfortable. I’m kind of excited to see how people receive it.”

Ivar’s president expects ‘new trends’ to stick at restaurants post-COVID

Working in Pike Place Market since the 1920s, his family’s businesses have survived wars and earthquakes, The Great Depression and recessions. The Genzale family is all about the long game.

“We’ve been married for 52 years, our businesses are generations old,” Frank said. “It’s just the way we are.”

No word yet on when restaurants will reopen in Burien and beyond, but when they do, the Genzale family will be ready.

Listen to Rachel Belle’s James Beard Award nominated podcast, “Your Last Meal,” featuring celebrities like Death Cab For Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Rainn Wilson, and Greta Gerwig. Follow @yourlastmealpodcast on Instagram & join the Quarantine Cooking Club!

  • listen to rachel belleTune in to KIRO Radio on weekdays to hear Rachel Belle.
Who is Rachel Belle?

Your Last Meal

Rachel Belle

supply chain...
Rachel Belle

Start your holiday shopping now or risk supply chain issues

Now is the time to start holiday gift shopping because if you don't buy soon, supply chain issues may make it tough to get what you want later.
11 days ago
Dick's...
Rachel Belle

How does Dick’s Drive-In pay workers $19 an hour with a menu completely under $5?

Dick's Drive-In recently raised its base pay, as did Taco Time, which is now offering employees $20 an hour at select locations. How do they keep prices low and pay high?
12 days ago
botox...
Rachel Belle

Don’t like how you look on Zoom? Many young Americans are now getting Botox

More people are turning to Botox to get rid of lines and wrinkles, but is it safe? How does one age naturally in a youth obsessed country? Experts weigh in.
18 days ago
certified wildlife habitat...
Rachel Belle

Turn your backyard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat

The National Wildlife Federation will help you make your yard a habitable home for bees, birds, bugs and critters. And they'll give you an official sign!
1 month ago
Emily Cherkin and Ben Gitenstein, pictured months after 9/11. (Photo courtesy of Emily Cherkin)...
Rachel Belle

‘You either got married or broke up’: 20 years later, a Seattle couple on falling in love in NYC in the wake of 9/11

On Sept. 11, 2001, Seattle's Emily Cherkin and Ben Gitenstein were 22 years old and separately taking the subway into Manhattan when two planes crashed into the Twin Towers. This is their story.
1 month ago
dirty work...
Rachel Belle

New book ‘Dirty Work’ reveals psychological toll of working unsavory jobs nobody wants

A new book by Eyal Press called "Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America" takes a deeper look at jobs no one wants to do.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles

...

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
...
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
...
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
...
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.
...
Comcast

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at www.ComcastRISE.com for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Courtesy of JWatch Photography....
Experience Anacortes

Summer Fun Activities in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.
Popular Burien restaurant gets proactive, makes big changes to prepare for reopening