ISSAQUAH, Wash. -- Lindsay Hasz and her husband were recently enjoying a rare evening without kids when they decided to dine at Issaquah's Montalcino Ristorante Italiano. Hasz ordered the frutti di mare, a traditional Italian medley of seafood and shellfish. Then she bit into something unexpected.
"It was quite jarring," she said. "In fact, I thought I almost broke my tooth it was so hard."
Inside the meat of a clam on her dish she found what looked like a pearl.
"I thought maybe it was an earring from an employee in the kitchen and it fell into my dish," Hasz said.
She didn't tell the restaurant and took the item home to do more research. She matched the deep purple sphere against pictures she found online and found news articles of people finding what looked like a Quahog purple pearl in their food.
"I wanted to take it to a gemologist to find out if it really was that type of pearl," she said.
Hasz took her find to Ted Irwin of Northwest Geological Laboratory in Bellevue. He was skeptical at first.
"I have heard that scenario in my 35 year career and it has turned out to be nothing much," Irwin said.
"He thought it looked so round and perfect that someone was playing a joke on me," Hasz said.
After a sending the pearl out for analysis, Irwin called Hasz with good news.
"He said you have a Quahog pearl, it's real," she said.
The Quahog clam is found primarily along the East Coast of the country and has been known to produce a pearl on a rare occasion, but it's even more rare to find one that was near perfect in its symmetry and produced naturally.
"One in a couple million is of gem quality, so it is a very rare occurrence," said Irwin.
He estimated the wholesale cost for the 1 caret, deep purple pearl would be $600. But there are several listings online for larger Quahog pearls going for thousands of dollars.
The husband and wife owners of Montalcino Ristorante Italiano couldn't be happier that it wasn't a pearl from an employee, but something that occurs naturally in the Quahog clams that are part of the menu.
"It was a big surprise," said co-owner Fernando Nardone "I think we've used up our million to one odds of that happening again."
The Nardone's found out when Hasz called them days later after her meal.
"I'm happy for her, it doesn't happen all the time," said Cindy Nardone.
Hasz plans hold onto the pearl and possibly make a necklace out of it.
"I have a fun story to tell," she said.
At Montalcino, they know they have an epicurean treasure on their hands.
"Only the finest for our customers," said Fernando.