Homestyle Italian food round up....for Portland
I'm originally from the Bay Area, actually San Francisco, born and raised.... I've seen some Burrito comparison charts on Chowhound for Portland and SF. They're funny! It's like trying to compare QE2 to an old fishing boat! Nothing in commmon....
Growing up with half an Italian (that's it-alian, not "I" tal-ion!) family that lived in North Beach, I'm really missing some decent Italian food and goods....
Italian Bakery?? Canoli? ST Honorary cakes? Decent coffee cakes? (Maybe Bernhardt;s on Broadway, but not quite.)
I've been to Pastaworks on Hawthorne which just makes me miss a real Italian Deli even more.... While they have some Italian things, it pretty limited.....and $8 for a tiny Molinari salami!! I used to Pay $8 for an entire stick! I can drive down to SF and buy 3 cases of Salami, tag on the gas cost and add 10% and STILL under cut that kind of price per pound! That's like being violated!
Family/regional style Italian cusine? Not Modern interpetation of Italian food! That's OK and fun, but not the real thing!
Some Abruzzo, Milanese, Genovese, Piedmont, Calabrese, Umbria, etc... Not Chef Bob Smith's version of Veal Scallopini....
BTW, I've never seen a city charge SO much for bread, red sauce and cheese.... yes! I'm talking Pizza! At least $4-8 dollars more here for a large pizza! WHY?? ....lets' not even talk about the quality for that cost.... ;-}
My mother, who lives up here now too, is dying for some Italian and her birthday is coming up.. ;-}
I ate at Michael's a few times while I was dating a guy who was a big fan of cheesesteak. That's pretty much all that's on the menu ("Chicago Italian"-style, though there's quite a variety of steak sandwiches), and I can best describe them as "okay food when you want to eat cheap" or "good for pleasing a limited-palate carnivore". It's definitely not an Italian deli in the sense you're thinking--it's an "italian" sandwich shop for someone who grew up more familiar with the White Sox than with cavatappi.
One Italian restaurant that hasn't come up is La Buca. It's certainly not hyper-authentic regional italian, nor is it super-classic italian-american. However, its short menu is pretty straightforward (no artsy-italian-fusion), everything has been well-prepared when I've been there, and the prices fall somewhere between "reasonable" and "I can't believe how cheap this is!"
Important disclaimer: I really don't like standard italian-american red-sauce/white-sauce, meatballs-or-sausage, spaghetti-or-linguini food. So depending on what you're looking for, feel free to completely discount this.
Ugh. No no no no. When I lived in Portland, the Little Italy's people used to own a place on Clinton across the street from Noho's. The food was terrible and overpriced and the service was even worse. That location finally folded a few years ago.
Out of sheer boredom when I moved to Vancouver, I went to the Little Italy's there and the food was exactly the same. As if that wasn't enough, the waitress forgot our appetizer and when we pointed this out to the manager or owner, we heard him dressing down the waitress in front of the entire restaurant and docking the price of the appetizer from her check. A place with food that mediocre and treats its help so poorly deserves to fail, even though it probably won't because it's in a fairly good location downtown.
It's been a year since my last post.... I've come to except that I've left my Italian Food in the Bay Area.
I still have a couple places I'd like to try, but most have been disappointing.
I have found some decent Chinese and Mexican food. It's not the same, but it'll do. ;-}
I guess if I have to post anything snarky, I have to ask.... What's up with all the mac-n-cheese? I thought this was a food that children ate! ;-}
I've made some interesting observations over the past 4 years here in Portland:
1. The Porn brings the city down in quality.
2. The Booze brings some of the people down in quality.
3. Food is either very good or horrible. There is no middle ground.
4. There does not appear to be any middle priced quality food.
5. Foodlies in Portland, really DO know their food.
6. Diversity is a dirty word.... :-O
7. Self expression is OK.... as long as you follow the guidelines....
8. I need to go to Hawaii every February or I'll pull my hair out with cabin fever.
I think the big glaring point is that Portland is a small city. SF is a big, big city. That makes all of the difference in the world. I think in comparison to other cities of similar size, Portland is off the charts.
No, I'm not a native. Yes, I've lived in many other large cities, small cities, and very small towns. Portland does a pretty good job. I don't 'adore' Portland but it's a pretty good place, a lot better than most.
Perhaps you just don't actually want to be here?
Well, 2 glaring points. Without a longtime native population of Italian immigrants
there's not going to be much of a tradition of traditional Italian american places.
And Portland's a river city, not a Seaport. To expect P-town to be a gateway to the World ala SF is not in keeping with the history of the Area.
Mostly you've got Expats from California remaking Portland and the rest of Oregon in their own image, then grousing about the results. At least we're putting up a good fight about losing our uniqe identity:(
I've come to this thread quite late, but I'd like to respond to this comment about a longtime native Italian population in Portland. It was there and thriving, I should know my maternal great-grandfather/grandmother and my grandfather came over and joined the fairly robust Italian community.
Now we've all more or less melted into the larger white population, a lot of the old working class Italians sold their bought cheap homes to California invaders for crazy prices in the last twenty years.
There are still pockets of Italians, their grocery stores and restaurants in Southeast Portland especially around the Cleveland High School area.
About the expats from Cali--you're right on--they are the target of the upscale Italian restaurants in Ptld.
I've read through this entire thread and I'm amazed it's been a year and you've come back just to bash the Portland food scene. If all you're looking for is pizza, you're not going to get a pizza this side of the Hudson river worth the bread it's baked on (I'm originally from New York where you can't spit without hitting a pizza joint or Italian restaurant). Talk about North Beach all you want, but you can't get a pizza worth a damn in all of California (And I've lived in San Francisco as well, but currently only commute there for the week). Like you said, pizza is peasant food, bread and tomatoes and cheese. You can't come from a place that boasts tandoori chicken pizza and talk about how bad pizza in Portland is.
I've been eating through North Beach since March of '07 (4 nights out of 7 each week) and most of the Italian is bad, tourist "mangiare" drivel. However, I wouldn't leap to the conclusion that "some San Franciscan's just don't have the palate" for good Italian because of it.
You haven't said one thing about Gino's, Cafe Mingo, or Piazza. I know personally that Cafe Mingo is a great Portland restaurant. My family comes from New York each year to visit and we always make reservations for dinner there. The service is excellent and the food is outstanding.
My wife and I had an anniversary dinner at Pazzo in downtown (two years ago), and that was good Italian.
My New York Italian friends got married out here over the summer and had the rehearsal dinner at Mama Mia Trattoria. I didn't eat there personally, but they said it was very good. Basta's on NW 21st is certainly not traditional Italian, but I'd put Uncle Vittorio's Ragout up against any dish I've eaten in San Francisco.
As far as quality food for a middle price, where the hell did you eat in San Francisco? Are you really arguing that you can get better food cheaper in one of the most expensive cities in the United States? Have you been to Noble Rot, Taqueria Nueve, Cava, or any number of other under $20 dinner places? I'll take my excellent food at cheap prices in Portland, thank you.
It seriously sounds like you're homesick for San Francisco, or maybe just the food you had when you grew up. Since Portland isn't San Francisco (and from my perspective, thank God!), you're not going to get that same food. Don't use that as an excuse to paint all Portland restaurants, or even all Portland Italian restaurants as bad. I've lived in both San Fran and Brooklyn, and per capita, Portland has better food, nicer people, and a more open-minded culture than any other city I've spent time in.
Now excuse me, I'm off to Fior d'Italia since it was recommended on the San Francisco Bay Area ChowHound Boards. I'm hoping not to be disappointed.
I buy a lot of meat at Gartners....
Mario Batali vs. American Italian??? Hmmm....good question!
I was brought up eating and cooking both.... My grandparents were from Sicily and Calabria, but their parents where from Roma and Piedmont areas... So, my regional Italian cooking and experiences are from different parts of Italy and a little Greek...
My family made traditional Italian food, but also made some American bastardized Italian too....They had to fit in at some point... ;-}
Although, they didn't make crappy American Italian...:-O
I was just posting on another site, saying, being from San Francisco it's hard to be opitmistic when I used choose from 15 different Veal Saltimboccas from 15 different restaurants and I'm lucky if I can find 1 restaurant that serves it here...
My understanding is that American Italian, good American Italian, is Italian cuisine as it was understood maybe 80 or even more years ago, before the world wars, passed down by the American nanas. In Italy, the cuisine kept evolving. In America, Nana knew what Italian was, there were lots of competing nanas in a given neighborhood with a common sensibility and a common desire to pass on their roots better than anyone else did, and Nana's Italian is what everybody wanted. I have even heard it said that it is easier to find certain Italian dishes done in what truly was the traditional way in older Italian neighborhoods in America than in some parts of Italy.
I think you're most likely to find that in a city that still has nanas who cook that way. That is a vanishing breed in Portland, but we have people with nanas who move here and start food establishments, so you never know. As I said, I've only heard of Sylvia's, and never been there. My grandmas were German and Swiss, so we went to Der Reinlander.
Crappy American -Fill in Ethnicity- is what some restauranteurs sell to people who don't have a grandma of that ethnicity. That is not what I mean.
This is a shot in the dark, but I think I read in the Oregonian FoodDay section about a real Italian bakery still doing business in North Portland. I think it may be Diprima Dolci on N. Killingsworth?
At any rate, I think your best bet is to go into the Yellow Pages, find every bakery you can find that calls itself Italian, ask them where the best family restaurants are, and then go to those places and reverse the process. If you want to know from Italian, in other words, ask the Italians who are still making it and might know what you're talking about. With any luck, they won't shake their heads and point towards PDX.
Also, you might check out the restaurants listed on http://www.discoverourtown.com/OR/Por.... Sylvia’s out on Sandy would be a good bet as a start. It has been there forever--it was well-established in the '60s-- and I think forever American Italian is what you’re looking for, instead of Mario Batali, right?
Most of the sausage makers in town are German-style, not Italian-style, but you might go out to Gardner's Meats (it's not far from where Sandy meets I-205), and ask them if there are Italians still making sausage in Portland. They're nice people there and those independent butchers have to stick together. If they're not doing it themselves, they'll be likely to know who is.
By the way, you'll please post back what you find in six months or so, won't you? Report on successes, anyway! :)
Definitely second Prima Dolci as a respectable Italian bakery. And -- don't shoot me -- there are those that love Gino's in Sellwood, which is most akin to the "family style" places in those little towns in North and West Marin County (whose names escape me now, but you know the ones. . . .)
When I lived in the Bay area, the primary "why can't I get that here?" complaint was from Southern California transplants who didn't understand why they couldn't get San Diego-style burritos in San Francisco.
I wonder if this kind of thing only travels north? Do ex-Portlanders who move to B.C. complain about the lousy coffee and lack of excellent small charcuterie? I certainly longed for decent coffee when I moved south from Seattle to SF, but I didn't see a lot of people complaining about it.
Anyway, there's lots of food in Portland to love. As a recent-ish arrival from the Bay Area, I find I don't miss very much from down there, since there are so many new (and regionally specific) things to discover and enjoy here.
Italian: I like Apizza Scholls and Ken's Artisan pizza.
Good luck, enjoy your stay, and let us know if you find anything that fits your criteria.
Di Prima Dolci is a lovely Italian and, I believe, Italian-American owned bakery/cafe on N. Killingsworth - the cross street is N. Denver. They have really wonderful baked goods - breads and pastries, seasonal antipasti platters, all kinds of yummy things. Their pignoli (sp?) cookies are super yummy. The prices are very reasonable. Extramsg.com wrote up their holiday offerings: http://www.extramsg.com/modules.php?n...
How did we get so far off onto the pizza thing??
I've been to Escape from NY Pizza in SF, they have 3 location in SF..... One of my high school buddies opened two of them in the late 80's.... Haight and Castro stores.
I agree though, ASHoles Pizza is better than Escapes, I won't tell my buddy that. ;-}
I don't really want to agrue about pizza.... Really just wanted some decent Italian restaurants and goods.
Yes, Kim, I agree, Portland is "no mans land" when it comes to quite a few cusines.... It's a shame, but I'm coming to realize that some Northwesterners just don't have the palate for certain foods. It's getting better, but very slow progress. SF does have a lot of Italian food, but also have tons of other cusines from all over the world.... Portland it not a great place to be if you're an international foodie... I wouldn't say SF is unique to decent Italian food. I've had decent Italian food in tons of cities all over this country, maybe not tons of restaurants in one place, but at least one or two traditional ones.
Yes....The mexican food is totally embarassing! I have friend come up from CA and they just laugh, it's embaressing and they're just laughing at the NAMES of the restaurants! Kind of makes the Northwest look a little culturally inept and white cracker... Muchas Gracias, the Taco house, etc... Sad. I know there are decent Mexican restaurants too... I've been there.. ;-}
Since, we're off onto a different tangent.... What's with the Chinese food that all tastes like dog food!!?? ;-}
salemjan.... Thanks for the suggestion, I'll check it out...
Italian: I like Alba.
The problem with Portland with regards to ethnic foods is that the ethnic communities are small and the restaurants tend to cater to the majority. Portland is the "whitest" of the major cities in the US.
Wong's King is a reasonable Chinese place. Otherwise you're gonna have to go to SF or Vancouver, B.C. for good Chinese.
We are not Italian, haven't lived in SF, but do love casual good feeling places that serve excellent food. We have found Cafe Allora on NW 9th between Glisan and Hoyt, to be a great place. It is run by Palo, who is Italian. He has a friendly, knowledgable wait staff who strive to please. We love their ravioli samplier plate...especially the butternut squash!
Fratelli's is also pretty good, altho we prefer Cafe Allora. Fratelli's has more meat entree dishes. Often lamb and bison are on their winter menu.
Please try Cafe Allora, I'd like to hear what you think!
"Escape from NY prices are exactly the same as they are in their SF Store (yes they have a SF store)"
And the pies there are nowhere near as good as the pies at Apizza Scholls, IMO. Apizza is worth it, they use amazing ingredients (Brian cures the guanciale himself fer crissakes!), and they shouldn't have to apologize for it.
SF is very unique when it come to Italian food, culture etc... It took me a couple of years (still miss it) to realize I simply was not going to have the same Italian & Mexican/Burrito choices as I did in San Francisco.
Hot Lips uses pretty much all local ingredients, many organic. I hope everyone knows that costs more than your typical Sysco shop. Escape from NY prices are exactly the same as they are in their SF Store (yes they have a SF store)
kim @ apizza
Do you really think it's unique? SF is full of that same Italian-American stuff that unfortunately serves as "Italian" food in most of the country. Every time I've tried to get a recommendation for a good, regional, authentic Italian place (the kind of food a person might actually be served in Italy) on Chowhound or egullet I'm told that there are very few options, which has been my experience there as well. Most restaurants are bad, touristy or have menus like the one posted above. Caesers salad, NY Steak and broiled chicken breast??? This is, in the OP's words, "the real thing", that everyone is faulting Portland for not having?? Yikes.
If that's the stuff you love, great, but I wouldn't blast a city's restaurants for not having that kind of Americanized "Italian" stuff.
I've had a few beers and some pizza in the lounge of Giuseppe's in Gresham. Met the owner, Joe, who is from Italy. The pizza was pretty good,and although that was all I had, my buddy who brought me there highly recommends the chow. It seems like a very basic, family oriented establishment. Can anyone attest to the quality of the food?
Guys and Gals,
Here's menu from one of the Italian restaurants I liked in SF.... this is what I'm shooting for... even if it's only 1/4 of this menu..... Does this look familiar to anything in the Northwest...?
Mixed Green Salad
Mixed Green Salad - Alla Lorenzo
Mixed Greens with Roquefort
Salad alla Brooks
Hearts of Romaine with Shrimp
Bay Shrimp Cocktail
Prawn or Crab Cocktail
Our Famous Home-Cured Prosciutto and Melon
Carpaccio alla Veneziana
Carpaccio & Home-Cured Prosciutto - Combination
Sliced Tomatoes with Anchovies and Onion
Escargots - House Specialty
Mussels della Casa
Calamari Vinaigrette - Our Own Specialty
Antipasto Toscano for Two - Home-Cured Prosciutto, Salame, Cheese, Marinated Calamari, Veal Shank, Beans and Salsa Verde
Sea Scallops - Sautéed in White Wine Mushroom Sauce
Petrale Mugnaia - Sautéed with White Wine, Lemon and Butter Sauce
Petrale Portofino - Stuffed with Shrimp and Crab Alla Mugnaia
Petrale - Broiled and served on a bed of Spinach Salad
Calamari - Fritti Livornese
Calamari - Steak Mugnaia
Cioppino alla Pescatora - Shelled - Our Seafood Specialty
Combination of Filet of Veal and Prawns - White Wine, Lemon and Butter Sauce
Abalone Doré - Mugnaia or Combination - Chef's Pride
Prawns Provinciale - Fresh Tomato or White Wine, Lemon and Butter Sauce
Halibut - Broiled, Sautéed or Poached with White Wine, and Lemon Butter Sauce
Salmon My Way - Lorenzo's Favorite
Salmon Steak - Broiled or Poached with White Wine, and Lemon Butter Sauce
Four Broiled Baby Eastern Lobster Tails - Alla Mugnaia
Eggplant Parmigiana - Baked with Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella
Breasts of Chicken - Broiled with Herbs
Breast of Chicken - Broiled and served on a bed of Spinach Salad
Chicken Toscana - Sautéed with Artichoke Hearts, Black Olives and Mushrooms
Chicken al Mattone - with Italian Herbs - House Specialty
Chicken Scaloppine - Piccata, Marsala or Sorrento
Chicken Livers - Sautéed with Mushrooms and Barbera Sauce
Veal Sweetbreads - Sautéed with Mushroom Sauce or Cream Sauce
Veal Scaloppine Piccata - with White Wine, Lemon, Butter and Caper Sauce
Veal Scaloppine Sorrento - Sautéed with Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Veal Scaloppine Marsala - Sautéed with Marsala Wine
Veal Milanese - Breaded, Fried, garnished with Fresh Lemon
Veal Scaloppine alla Bruno - Sautéed with Chardonnay, Mushrooms and Pinoli
Veal Chop - Broiled, Sautéed or Milanese
Veal Cutlet Parmigiana - Baked with Fresh Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Veal Saltimbocca alla Nerone - Chef's Creation
Filet of Lamb alla Bruno with Barolo Sauce - House Specialty
New York Sirloin Steak - Broiled
Filet Mignon - Broiled
Steak Caruso with Prosciutto, Mushrooms and Pomarola Sauce
Porchetta al Barolo - House Specialty
Ravioli Toscana - Homemade
Spinach Ravioli - with Ricotta Cheese
Pasta Della Casa - Prosciutto, Mushrooms and Veal with Chardonnay Wine
Pasta Puttanesca or Arrabbiata
Pasta Primavera - Seasonal Vegetables
Linguine Con Vongole - Baby Clams
Linguine with Fresh Clams
Linguine with Porcini & Scallops
Tortellini Supreme - Cream Sauce
Homemade Cannelloni - House Specialty
Lasagna - Made to order - 20 Min.
Gnocchi al Gorgonzola
Gnocchi Piemontese - Homemade
Mare Chiaro - Shrimp, Tomato, Cream Sauce
Pappardelle Cardinale - alla vodka with Bay Shrimp
Spaghetti all' Amatriciana - Con Pancetta
Spaghetti Carbonara - House Specialty
Spaghetti with Vodka - Our Own Specialty
Fettuccine Alfredo - Homemade
Fettuccine con Asparagi alla Valentino
Tagliatelle Luigi - Marinara Sauce
Tagliatelle al Pesto - Fresh Basil Sauce
Tagliatelle Bolognese - Meat Sauce
Tagliatelle con Porcini - Wild Mushrooms
Tagliatelle Pescatora - Assorted Shellfish
Risotto Pescatora - Assorted Shellfish
Risotto con Porcini - Wild Mushrooms
Coffee, Tea or Milk
Espresso - Graffeo
Cappuccino - Graffeo
Biscotti di Prato
Cream Caramel - Homemade
Chocolate Mousse Torte
Hot Zabaglione - for Two
Cold Zabaglione - Della Casa
Semifreddo - Homemade
NY Style Cheesecake
Tiramisú - Homemade
Torta di Gelato - Homemade
Spumoni or Ice Cream
Tray of Cheese, Walnuts, Figs and Apples for Two
Pizza is overpriced in Portland from our experience. Hot Lips & Escape from NY charge a few more dollars than your basic pie from your local Pizzaria in NY .. I would not mind paying it or more if the pies were at least good.
I have heard that Apizza Scholls is the best, maybe they are, but otherwise, if you have experience with better pizza, don't expect the same thing in Portland.
I like Giorgios ( in the Pearl) for a good grown-ups version of Italian cooking..
Otherwise, we are still looking too ~
If you really want to avoid someone elses version of Italian, don't go to Mama Mia ..
Focaccia, everywhere we get it , they use too much salt and too much rosemary, there is no other taste in your mouth..
If there is an Italian bakery here, we have not found it, last time I tried pastries at Honoré, they were stale so I give up!
Thanks for the Pizza reality check and confirmation!
I'll cehck out Gorgios online...
I've given up on Italian Bakeries.... Most seem to be very narrow in their production.... Been every dissapointed.
I've had the same experience with Foccicia! What's happened to the tomato sauce version too?? ;-}
"WHY?? ....lets' not even talk about the quality for that cost...."
Bay Area girl myself & I'm kind of puzzled by your problem with price for Pizza comment. What pizzerias in SF are you talking about? Not A16, Pizzetta 211, Pizzaiolo, those aren't your typical pizzerias but the quality & the cost are in line with the fabulous results. I've tried many o' pizzeria in this town & the ones that are on the same level as the ones named above do a good job. Nostrana is on a level by itself for this style of pizza, Neopolitan....I'm guessing they run 30% COG & you can taste the quality & passion, the others are a joke & seem to run about 15% COG & have no passion what so ever. If you're talking pizza parlor pizza, then again, I'd like to know who you're talking about & maybe what it is you're looking for.
Italian deli...No such thing in this town yet.
Alba, 3 Doors Down & Gino's are my go to's.
kim @ apizza
Wow! That's quite an arguement for a guy who says pizza costs most in Portland, than San Francisco... While there are some quality pies in Portland, they too are overpriced... So, if you own a Pizzeria or snob-shop and serve decent pizza, congratulations! But, that still didn't answer the original question.... Why does it cost so much?
Since you've named every high-end pizza joint in SF and Pizzaiolo is ran by former Chez Panisse pizza guru Charlie Hallowell..... I assume your talking high end pizza...
Guess what? It's PIZZA!!! It's Italian peasant food! It's supposed to be food for the people, not the uptight selfrightous.. ;-} It's simple dough, tomatos and cheese....But what do I know, I only grew up in North Beach? Where did you grow up....Fremont or Atherton?
OH! 3 Doors Down is not the type of restaurant I'm requesting interest....
I can't claim any Italian heritage, but I would like to take a stab at recommending some places that I think serve up good Italian food.
Assagio's in Sellwood/West Moreland: here they have a menu with lots of great options and they will serve three pasta items (the chef's choice) family style. Great wine as well.
Caffe Mingo on NW 21st: here they have a very diverse menu that goes well beyond the typical americanish pasta meals. Their signature feature is sitting at long family style tables, sharing your dining experience with those around you.
Alba Osteria and Enoteca on Capitol Hwy just outside Hillsdale in SW: here the menu is small, but still manages to offer a little bit of everything, pasta, lamb, fish. This one is more expensive, but for a birthday the dessert is delicious.