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Sep 29, 2008 08:38 AM

Portland's best-kept (sadly) secret: Rachel's L'Osteria

SO, her 90 year-oid mother, and I dined at Rachels Friday evening. We get there 2-3 times a year, and have never had anything other than delicious food in a comfortable atmosphere. The restaurant is small (7 tables plus eating bar), the menu limited, the wines delicious and fairly-priced. Menu is generally Italian, cooked by owner's wife. Mom had rack of lamb: incredibly tasty morsels. SO enjoyed one of the standard items, seared scallops in a rich medly of wild mushrooms over angel hair. This one's worth the trip all by itself. I thoroughly enjoyed a dish whose Italian name is escaping me: rather like Bolognese, only made with finely chopped pork, with a nice slice of boned, rolled and seasoned pork loin to decorate.
Perhaps because it's not on the peninsula, this place mostly gets neighborhood and local chow-type traffic, which is a shame because $$ for $$, this place is hard to beat. Owner said business had been, "OK," but not more, so I'm hoping this post will encourage Portlanders and visitors to check this out, lest it disappear.

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  1. I absolutely adore this restaurant. First time I went, I had a pappardelle with mushrooms that I still think about a year later. Rachel’s is a great neighborhood place and is my first suggestion when friends ask where they should eat in Portland.
    The particulars:
    496 Woodford Street

    1. Oh too bad...I was just in your fair city and Rachel's sounds right up my and my family's alley. Next time...thanks for keeping it on the radar.

      1. I was there Saturday night for dinner. We love Rachel's. I had the same pork dish which was braised in milk & herbs with the bolognese rigatoni. It was delish!!!
        The arugula sald with carmelized onions & pancetta is wonderful as well. One complaint I do have, though was that it was sooooo hot in the restaurant they should have put the AC on...

        1. Rachel's is the best kept secret in Portland. We live up the street from Rachel's and although the prices are more $$$ than $$, the food is tasty and there is plenty of it to enjoy. It would definitely be thought of as the best Italian restaurant in Portland if it was on the peninsula. By the way, the #4 bus from downtown takes you right past the restaurant which is on Woodfords right before you hit Brighton Ave.

          1. We have enjoyed some very nice meals at Rachel's. However, we gave up on the place a couple of years ago because the service was so bad. I can appreciate the owner needing/wanting to run the front of the house alone, but you run a risk of losing customers if you can't provide a decent level of service. They lost our business and that of others I know.

            If they have resolved the service issues, I would love to give them another try. I will look forward to hearing of others' recent experiences.

            3 Replies
            1. re: foodquest

              No question that on a busy evening, things can get harried. However, last Friday during busy times, the owner was managing the orders and deliveries without much trouble, and there were additional staff setting places, etc. I certainly had no complaints about the service: attentive and reasonably paced.

              1. re: mainemal

                I thought Rachel's was great place when it WAS on the penninsula. However, I feel it lost something when I visited last winter. There were definitely staffing problems as ther owner, in dirty t shirt and jeans, waited on us on a quiet night. We felt like we were an inconveninece that evening. The food was ok, the caesar mediocre and the salmon I ate was extremely overcooked. We may try it again this year but there are simply too many other places executing consistently for not much more money.

                1. re: Noreaster

                  I was a big fan of Rachel's Wood Grill, as well. Simple, rustic Italian...meats wood grilled with a bit of char served with truffled mashed potatoes (back when they weren't a cliche) or silky pappardelle.

                  Their old location, and their clear "wood grill" identity gave them a nice distinction in town and put them in the rotation. Additionally, the space on Exchange st. was intimate and authentic. The photos of the new, suburban space look... well...suburban.

                  I do recall having a very long delay for food at the old place. The food, however, was delicious and minimized the effect of the wait.

                  We never even consider Rachel's which is shocking since my family lives on that side of town. Perhaps we should give it a shot in hopes that the service won't be an issue and the food remains as good as it once was.