Chef brings Italian baking traditions to Grit City

Kevin Pemoulie, acclaimed chef and restaurateur, leaves the fast-paced dining world behind to focus on family and the simple goodness of Italian baking.

By Mariah Beckman / For the Tacoma Daily Index

Kevin Pemoulie, the baker behind Kevin’s Italian, isn’t Italian. But his food is. After training at a prestigious East Coast culinary institute and enjoying a fast-paced career in several celebrated kitchens, he’s bringing a taste of his Italian-American culinary heritage to Tacoma by way of his upcoming cottage bakery.

Pemoulie’s career highlights include working as a sous chef at Tom Colicchio’s Craftbar and serving as executive chef at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar. It’s at the latter that he met fellow restaurant lover, Seattle native and future wife, Alex.

The pair wed and, in 2011, opened their first restaurant together in Jersey City called Thirty Acres. The Garden State cuisine was an amalgamation of familiar favorites married with avante garde twists and was dubbed a critical success. It was shortlisted for a James Beard award, nominated by Bon Appetit magazine for Best New Restaurant and received rave reviews from critics.

But in 2014, the Pemoulies cooked up something really special off-menu: their first child. The pair had been planning to open a second restaurant up until then. Now, with their priorities changing, they made the decision to move closer to Alex’s family in Seattle.

It wasn’t long after they settled into the PNW that restaurant life called to them again. The couple started Mean Sandwich in Ballard in 2016. The menu and the setting were stellar, and the couple was welcomed with open arms into the PNW dining scene. But their success came at a cost.

As parents, their time was now at a premium like never before. Alex and Kevin were already spread thin and missing out on time as a family — and that’s when they discovered they were expecting baby number two. Something had to give. So now, for the second time, the couple made a tough call: they decided to sell their Seattle sandwich shop.

Going with the grain

In 2020, the family relocated to Tacoma. Alex continued on in restaurant-adjacent roles such as management and accounting, and Kevin found himself assuming the unexpected but fulfilling role of full-time dad. And, as the saying goes: you can take the chef out of the kitchen, but you can’t take the kitchen out of the chef.

“I started cooking more at home, obviously,” he remembers. “About a year into staying home, I was like I have all this time, I want to start making basic bread and pizza dough. I just dug in really deep and now I’ve making sourdough, focaccia, bread loafs, Italian cookies — so many things.”

After decades of aspirational cooking and experiential dining, baking has become Kevin’s focus. His cottage bakery will specialize in Italian-style breads and baked goods. Pemoulie’s pedigree shines through in his menu offerings, placing an emphasis on quality ingredients. He uses the finest Washington-grown flours and grains from sources like Cairnspring Mills and hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards. Kevin’s own impressive garden contributes fresh herbs and produce.

There’s limitations, he admits, to this cottage industry. Pizza is off the table, for instance. But Kevin is confident that what he’s doing is something Tacoma foodies — and their families — will love. His menu is a delightful mix of familiar treats and lesser-known Italian specialties, and he’s excited to share the nostalgic flavors of his New Jersey childhood.

The cornerstone of his menu is his focaccia. But watch out for unique offerings like semolina sesame bread, rainbow cookies and amaretti — items rarely found in PNW bakeries. A scroll through his Instagram reveals tempting options such as the Peppers & Onion sourdough — “a nice sourdough loaf studded with roasted peppers and caramelized onions and laced with grated parm — or the Potato & Egg Pizza — dough topped with potato whisked in egg, baked and finished with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Is a brick-and-mortar bakery in the cards for Kevin Pemoulie? He’s dubious. “Do I want to ruin everything I’ve enjoyed doing by opening a third restaurant? Nope. I’m open to the idea if the time comes, but for now, I just want to share really good food with my community.” His cottage food license was approved this spring, and he plans to be up and running by early May.

Mark your calendars and check out his enticing Instagram for a closer look at what’s coming. Visit Kevin’s Italian pre-order site for mouthwatering updates and ordering information at or email