Cooking It Up On Mercer Island, WA


I love hospitality and feeding people, and I've been incredibly fortunate to meet people who share that passion. However, no one understands this love quite like Lisa Caruccio does. After meeting Lisa on the internet by chance and exchanging emails, I traveled to her culinary event center, Caruccio's. It didn't take us long to confirm that we were kindred spirits. 

Lisa lives on Mercer Island in Washington, just 15 minutes from downtown Seattle, and after raising her three children, she and her husband Rino, fulfilled her dream of opening Caruccio's in downtown Mercer Island where she hosts visiting chefs, throws parties, and welcomes the community to come together in the name of food and wine. She told me she finally made the decision to open Caruccios's after her dying mother made her promise to follow her dream. Soon after her mother's death, Lisa found the perfect location and she and Rino built their beautiful culinary event center.

We both love to cook, entertain, work long hours, and feed our friends.  We spent that first afternoon (a Monday) walking around the shops where Lisa introduced me to her friends in the community. We had pizza for lunch and went to the local grocery market to begin shopping for the upcoming events we would host together. She proudly showed me the beautiful facility where she spends most of her days. Caruccio's is an 1800 square foot space designed perfectly for cooking demonstrations, parties, pop-up dinners, and wine events. The teaching kitchen has state-of-the-art equipment, including audio-visual technology so everyone can view the chef demonstrations on multiple screens. There is also a prep kitchen in the back, and a mezzanine above the kitchen with a large hardwood table and chairs, and fireplace. We spent one evening in the mezzanine with a wine representative who provided a generous tasting for potential wines to sell. 


My second day at Caruccio's I taught a lunch class for 17 people where I prepared Butternut Squash and Pumpkin soup with coffee-dusted pepitas. I also prepared my Spicy Black Bean Soup, and Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad. I couldn't let them leave without an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie. It was a big success, and after announcing my Spanish Tapas class for later in the week, six more people signed up to attend.The following day Lisa and I prepared for "Wine Wednesday", a very fun evening she hosts every Wednesday night. We started cooking early in the morning preparing a multitude of snacks and appetizers for the 50-plus people who attended. Lisa loves to host Wine Wednesday because people from all over the community come together to purchase a glass of wine and eat the food she prepares for them. We creatively found things in her fridge and made delicious dips, toast toppers, and a few Spanish tapas that brought raves from our guests.


My final day in Mercer Island started early. I drove into Seattle to the Pikes Place Market to have a quiet breakfast overlooking the pier. I purchased the meat for my class that night, and returned to Caruccio's to begin preparations for my Spanish Tapas cooking class. I made cheese-stuffed piquillo peppers, stuffed mushrooms, and a cheese platter for appetizers as guests arrived. We offered three Spanish wines to pair with the food throughout the night. I demonstrated Spanish meatballs in almond sauce, steak with Cabrales sauce, fierce potatoes with garlic aioli, and garlic peppery shrimp. I had cooked the steak in a sous vide bath all day, so it was perfectly cooked to medium rare before I seared it in a hot skillet with butter and Spanish olive oil. For dessert I made churro and chocolate. By the end of the evening every person was filled and happy. I announced I would be returning to Caruccio's in the summer to cook my seven course "Around the World Dinner", and every person in the room requested to be on the list to attend. 

My week on Mercer Island was tiring but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Lisa and I became such good friends, and we look forward to working and playing in the kitchen again soon.Thankfully, I'll get to see her at the IACP ( International Association of Culinary Professionals )conference in New York in a month.

I never tire of making friends, especially those who share my passion for feeding people and bringing friends together.If you're ever in the Seattle area, check out Lisa's website at and register for a class or pop-up dinner. And don't forget about Wine Wednesday!




Izza Wei-Haas