Ciaò Thyme will take your breath away before you’ve even had your first bite. This “lifestyle brand,” as co-owner Jessica Gillis called it, houses a catering business, lunch time café, event space, cooking classes, take-home prepared frozen meals, and a dinner series. What a mouthful. And, to top it off, the husband-wife team, Jessica and Mataio Gillis, fill every corner of their businesses with love, passion, and a sense of commitment to their community.
The couple began with the catering aspect of the business in 2001, after they had both fallen in love with Italy. While both were drawn to the Italian culture and cuisine separately, it was when they spent their honeymoon working on organic farms in Italy that sparked Ciaò Thyme. “We loved the idea of the long tables [in restaurants]. It was unique to us, in our American mindset, to be sitting next to strangers and we thought, ‘Bellingham could do that,’” Jessica said. While their friends warned them that their customers would not love the communal tables as much as the Italians, they have been a complete success, she said.
Customers can enjoy Ciaò Thyme’s atmosphere and locally sourced, Northwest cuisine in a number of ways. Tuesday through Friday, the Ciaò Thyme Café, now in its fifth year, is open for lunch at the same Unity Street location. Since its debut a year ago, Ciaò Thyme Commons, a warm, inviting event space, has hosted everything from weddings to discounted catering for nonprofit fundraisers. Ten to 15 percent of the business’ annual revenue is donated to nonprofits like Bellingham Food Bank, Whatcom Humane Society, Sustainable Connections, and more, in the form of goods and services. “I want to live in this community and part of that means I have a responsibility to it,” Mataio said.
Guests should also check out the Ciaò Thyme dinner series schedule online, which features the restaurant’s “Incognito” dinners. These prix-fixe dinners include a minimum of six courses, none revealed until mealtime. Incognito dinners give guests the true, Italian inspired, Ciaò Thyme experience. Seated at the expansive tables in the Ciaò Thyme dining room, guests are encouraged to mingle with their neighbor as they enjoy hours of delicious dishes. And, if you still can’t get enough Ciaò Thyme, Ciaò Thyme 2 Go, offers weekly frozen meals ready to be served to your family on those nights when cooking just isn’t an option.