Woman bites down on a $600 surprise while eating at Italian restaurant

SSAQUAH, Wash. -- A date-night out for one Issaquah couple turned into a lucky find, when one of them bit into a valuable pearl found in an Italian dish.

Lindsay Hasz never expected to find a rare pearl in her dinner a few weeks ago.

She said was able to finally enjoy a night out with her husband, Chris, so they decided to go to a place where they usually go for special occasions.

“I wanted some seafood and ordered the pasta dish that had clams and mussels in it,” said Hasz.

Hasz and her husband were eating at Montalcino Ristorante Italiano in Issaquah, when she says she bit into something unusual.

“In my mind, I thought I don’t even want to know what I just bit down on,” added Hasz.

As she took it out of her mouth, the tiny pebble looked like a pellet, but Hasz thought, based on what she was eating, there was a chance it could be a pearl, but she wasn’t so sure.

“My husband looked at it and then it was half-shock, half-embarrassment. I don’t know what this is so let’s just take it home and deal with it there,” added Hasz.

As Hasz started researching it, she discovered it could be a Quahog Pearl -- a rare pearl that is more likely to be found on the East Coast.

“To have something of a gem quality is a long shot,” said Ted Irwin, the president of the Northwest Gemological Laboratory, in Bellevue.

Hasz took the pearl to Irwin, who was skeptical of it being a pearl, but he took a look at it and ran some tests.

“I have only had a few occurrence of pearls coming in under this scenario in 35 years of appraising and this was the first of what I would call a gem quality,” said Irwin.

Gem experts say finding a pearl of this quality is so rare that you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than actually finding a good quality pearl.

“This is so crazy, the initial story is crazy and this is even crazier that this is a really a rare pearl that I found,” added Hasz.

Based on the size of the rare pearl, Irwin estimates its value at about $600.

Hasz said she’ll likely put the pearl into a necklace to carry with her for good luck.

Meanwhile, at the restaurant where it was found, owners Cindy and Fernando Nardone are happy for the couple.

“Eating here is like winning the lottery,” joked Cindy Nardone.

The chef preparing the dish that day had no idea it would turn out to be a winning plate.

“People want to order that dish so we call it now the 'Thousand Dollar Dish',” joked Fernando Nardone, owner of Montalcino Ristorante Italiano.

Meanwhile, Hasz, who doesn’t usually order the seafood plate, said she’ll be back to her lucky restaurant.

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