Pogacha brings a taste of Croatia to the Island

Cassidys have run the restaurant since 1997.

Brad Cassidy unleashes a laugh and you can tell by the inflection in his voice that he’s glad that everything’s finally set in stone.

With their permits finalized on Dec. 14, the Pogacha owner and his wife and co-owner Lisa opened their restaurant that night with a ribbon cutting in front of the eatery at 2707 78th Ave. SE on Mercer Island.

“I am so much more relaxed. I would have never reopened without the history. We’ve got some really great clientele, a lot of Mercer Island clientele, regulars. You should have seen last night, they’re coming in and the support’s been awesome,” Brad said. The couple purchased the now nearly 34-year-old Bellevue restaurant from original owner Helen Brocard in 1997 and the lease expired on Feb. 1 of this year.

Brad knows that there’s heaps of work to be done now that they’ve finally opened the Croatian-inspired restaurant on the Island. For starters, he said they need to get the word out about the restaurant. It’s just takeout and delivery for now, so once restaurants get the governor’s approval to open for some indoor customer seating — Jan. 4 is the proposed date — they’ll begin the next phase of their journey.

The new stop for Pogacha — which translates into “soft, chewy flatbread” — on the Island came about when Brad’s friend told him about the spot that once housed the Island Broiler. Brad had been searching for a new location for 14 months in Bellevue, to no avail, so he met with the Island landlord on Feb. 1 and turned around the quick deal with a March 2 lease signing.

They weren’t able to open sooner because the pandemic hit, so since March they’ve been fixing the place up and working with the architect and contractor and waiting for the permits to be finalized. A crucial component to the restaurant is the massive wood-fired oven, which was made near Tuscany and transported from Bellevue to the Island. Four or five key employees have stayed on board to keep Pogacha rolling.

The Cassidys also run Café Pogacha, which they opened in 2001 in Bellevue. Pogacha’s specialties include flatbread, fresh herbs, house-made pasta and a purple dobar chicken dish with port-soaked grapes and a Gorgonzola cream sauce.

Along with enjoying their new Island location, the spot will help with the catering aspect of the business since they now have easier access to Seattle, Issaquah and Renton.

Brad, who noted that Pogacha will offer brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, is ready to do business on the Island. They’re facing pandemic restrictions now, but he hopes they can soon open their doors for customers.

“I’m a half-full glass guy. I’m an optimist, I guess, and I put in a lot of years and I saw we were real successful in Bellevue,” he said.

For more information, call 425-455-5670 or visit www.pogacha.com.