If you’re not a higher-level Amazon employee, you aren’t likely to get many chances to see the inside of the company’s Buckminster Fuller-inspired biodomes in Seattle. Mostly closed to the public, the Amazon Spheres are still a popular attraction for selfie-taking tourists who hover outside, peering through the glass at the rainforest-like environment within.
But with the opening of Willmott’s Ghost, a new Italian eatery, anyone can pop in for an hour or two, any day of the week. You won’t get to tour the famous greenery or the five levels of botanical workspaces, but you can dine on Roman-style pizzas, fried gnocchi, clams, and tiramisu in a small section of one of the domes.
The latest establishment from esteemed restauranteur Renee Erickson, Willmott’s Ghost offers about 50 seats in a jewel box of a space decked out in an appetizingly crisp palette of materials and colors, including palest pink, mint, deep marine blue-green, white Carrera marble, and metallic gold. Accessed through its own subtly marked entrance, the café is just as beautifully lit as you’d expect, especially given its unique location within the domes.
You’ll find no Italian stereotypes here, nor an overabundance of midcentury modern nostalgia. Vertical lines draw the eye up toward the glass, with crescent moon booths and globe-shaped lamps giving the space a little extra sparkle.
While the Spheres were created by architecture firm NBBJ, Willmott’s Ghost is the work of Seattle-based Heliotrope Architects, who liken the experience to “building a ship in a bottle.” They add: “The design team drew inspiration from the unique geometry of the [spheres] and the bright, airy environments of modern art museums and galleries.”
“Enclosed within a spherical envelope, the area housing the restaurant proved an incredible — and inspiring — challenge, as much of the architecture is dictated by curves. Curved leather banquettes and booths hug the glass perimeter. Curved walls clad in painted wood pickets define the dining room, and curved bars with Italian marble tops organize the space.”
“Avoiding the tropes of Italian restaurant aesthetics, the architecture and design evoke classical themes written in a contemporary language. Willmott’s Ghost takes its name from the thistle-like flower christened in honor of Victorian horticulturalist Ellen Ann Willmott.”
The menu celebrates Italian cuisine at its best: when it’s simple enough for its star ingredients to shine. Rustic rectangles of pizzas are adorned with seasonal toppings. Plates of thinly-sliced prosciutto and artisanal cheeses are drizzled in Sapori olive oil. Local specialities like Coho salmon are accented by aromatic herbs and citrus. Get a reservation if you want a table, or walk in and sit at the bar.
If you want to see more of the Spheres, just be sure to time your trip to coincide with the first or third Saturday of the month to enjoy a free “open house” tour. Make a reservation first, though, as slots are limited and fill up quickly.