Like cufflinks, potato ricers, and sunscreen, there are some things that only have one sole purpose. They’re there when you need them, and aren’t in the way when you don’t. Well, except for potato ricers. Those things take up a lot of drawer space. Willmott’s Ghost, a nice all-day Italian spot on the Amazon campus, is no different. It’s a good place to keep in mind when you need to impress someone over a laidback lunch, but not much else.
The restaurant is located inside the Amazon Spheres, which could pass for a UFO mothership, but is really just offices and restaurants housed inside of three giant glass orbs. And while the interior is impeccably designed down to every brass rod and robin’s egg blue barstool, there’s something sterile and eerie in the air, especially at night. We wouldn’t be surprised if, halfway through a plate of pork terrine during dinner, you were plucked up by a robot and sent across the country (for free with Prime two-day shipping). But in a neighborhood full of lunch options that are either casual counter-service places, restaurants where you have to trade in your first-born child for a ribeye, and not much in between, Willmott’s Ghost is the upscale but casual-enough middle ground that this corporate district needed. And the lack of character will hopefully impress your client who owns a multimillion-dollar lakehouse in Medina. During lunch, you’ll probably overhear snarky jokes about Bezos, notice that the bathroom is more beautiful than yours, pay a little more for pizza than you normally would, drink some wine, and ultimately, seal whatever deal needs sealing.
Since Willmott’s Ghost comes from the same team behind The Walrus And the Carpenter and Bateau, our expectations for food were high. These spots have respectively mastered oysters and steak, so pizza—which dominates the lunch menu—sounds easy enough. The pies are tasty and charred in all the right places, and the rest of the menu is forgettable but does the job. We wouldn’t come here for dinner (when the menu expands to include meatier options) to order the $30 chicken under a brick, mostly because the skin is flabby and the side dishes are boring, but also because, come 7:30pm, the whole place has that sleepy “we’re almost closed” feel. At lunch, the dining room is alive and the light shines through the Spheres’ futuristic exoskeleton windows. It’s the perfect setting to soften the blow of whatever budget you’re about to propose, and after a bite of the incredible olive oil cake at dessert, the client might just agree to meet your proposal. It’s a powerful cake.
If you need to win someone over in a setting that has looks, drinks, and tasty but safe food, lunch at Willmott’s Ghost is a fine idea. But if you’re in another neighborhood, leave this place in The Spheres like you leave your potato ricer in the drawer.
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Much like your elementary school self who pushed that other kid off the seesaw for having better stickers than you, this salad is very bitter. The tangy parmesan dressing, mint leaves, and croutons don’t do too much to save it.
Sometimes these fried risotto balls are crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside, but other times it’s cold in the center and the mozzarella pops right out like a gumball. Up to you to roll the dice.
The pork terrine is spiced well, and the little pizza bread triangles topped with fennel seeds and herbs complement it nicely. The problem is the sickly sweet cherry preserves that don’t feel like they belong in the same bite, so just avoid that part. Otherwise, this is a solid dinner option.
Polenta With Braised Brussels Sprouts
The overly cheesy polenta tastes like fake movie theater butter, and the braised sprouts float in a slick swamp of oil. Don’t do it.
We like that the mozzarella and olive oil are added after the pizza comes out of the oven, because those things taste really good when they’re cold. But this pizza just doesn’t have a ton of pizazz, which pizza should have, because you can’t spell pizazz without pizza.
The sausage pie is the best pizza in the house. The meat is moist and fennel-y, the sauce has just the right amount of acidity, and there’s enough cheese to stand up to the thick crust.
You could dress up a slab of pizza dough with caramelized onion, cold slices of mortadella, sesame seeds, and Calabrian chili oil, and call it pizza, but it’s not. It’s more like bread that graduated from FIT. If you were in the mood for real pizza, this probably won’t satisfy you.
Chicken Under A Brick
Allegedly, when you cook chicken under a brick, the skin’s supposed to get all crispy and delicious. This chicken must have missed that memo.
Olive Oil Cake
Quick, someone get Eric Whitacre on the phone. This amazing cake needs a tearfully beautiful choral piece written about it immediately.