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Food & Drink: La Bottega better than ever after renovation

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La Bottega on Main Street in Vancouver recently expanded its footprint with a new back dining area.
La Bottega on Main Street in Vancouver recently expanded its footprint with a new back dining area. (Rachel Pinsky) Photo Gallery

In 2006, Peter and Lisa Dougherty knew they wanted to open a restaurant. Searching for spaces, they fell in love with Uptown Village in Vancouver. It reminded Lisa of a town from her childhood in the Midwest.

After researching the area, they decided that Vancouver lacked something that they felt would be popular — Italian food. Peter had a culinary degree and worked in many kitchens. He wanted to focus on traditional food from northern Italy with an emphasis on local, organic and sustainable ingredients.

The restaurant, La Bottega, quickly became a Vancouver favorite. It’s won Best Italian restaurant in The Columbian’s Best of Clark County vote for the last several years.

Five years after opening, it became obvious to the Doughertys that they would need to renovate and expand the space for La Bottega. They began saving money for this extensive project. Two-and-a-half years ago they started planning to add square footage by bumping out the back of the building.

The quickest way to complete the renovation would be to close for a month. They decided that was not economically feasible. Instead, La Bottega closed several times for a few days during March through January. They continued to serve customers during the renovation by being creative about using the space available and instituting a construction menu. Some customers didn’t like the limited menu which led to a decrease in sales. Now that the renovation is complete and the regular menu is back, business has been “insane,” Lisa Dougherty said.

The goals of the renovation were to open up the space and make it more user-friendly. At the front are the deli counter with meats, cheeses, olives, salads, as well as a cooler filled with to-go items like ravioli, broth, fresh pastas and sauces. There’s also a glass case filled with such desserts as Cara Cara orange cheesecake, cannoli and cappuccino pot de creme. Sandwiches and food from the cases can be ordered there and taken to go.

The retail area, with Italian delicacies like bags of dried rice for risotto, tins of Ortiz anchovies, and jars of Toschi’s Amarena black cherries in syrup, was moved to the left as you enter. The boxes of wine that were stacked on the right have been moved into a new climate-controlled wine cellar that is sandwiched between the front dining room and the new back dining room. Most notably, the space in the main dining area is wider and the artwork has changed. The Doughertys found some Chagall reproductions that were for sale and filled the walls with large pieces of the artist’s vibrant work.

The new climate-controlled wine cellar has around 470 bottles from Washington, Oregon, California, Portugal, Spain, France and various wine regions of Italy. Lesser-known wines from South Africa and Israel are also represented. The Doughertys’ daughter, Nichole, who serves as their sommelier and dining room manager, plans on adding wine from even more countries to fill the new space. A refrigerator outside the wine cellar is stocked with bubblies and roses.

The back dining area is a more intimate version of the front. It’s a good spot to rent for a party or just hide out. Peter Dougherty made all the wood tables. The walls are painted a deep Tuscan mustard color and filled with artwork to add to the Italian theme. Two elegant chandeliers bob and sparkle from the ceiling.

Behind the scenes, the kitchen has substantially expanded. This allows food to get out faster to the increased number of tables. It also makes room for more catering and take-out. The added space lends itself to new culinary possibilities. A large carved item like a whole pig may be on the menu in the near future.

La Bottega

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Where: 1905 Main St., Vancouver

Information: 360-571-5010; www.labottegafoods.com

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