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Monday, 25 July
Pastini Pastaria

Pastini Pastaria
1506 NW 23rd
Me: Cannelloni Frutti di Mare ($8.95)
Him: Ziti Vegetariano ($5.95)
Us: Chocolate Tartufo ($4.95)

I finally remembered to take pictures of our meal--but some of them were a little late! Here's the cannelloni, already chopped up into pieces before I remembered to grab the camera:

This cannelloni was great comfort food, and the sauce absolutely begged to be sopped up with the Pearl Bakery bread. Nothing challenging, a little fishy-tasting. Just good basic Italian. Note the plate: "pastaria" has an "e" where it shouldn't. I would have cried if I'd ordered these plates--but the overall effect is kind of charming.

The Spousal Unit's Ziti Vegetariano was, again, very good basic food. He found the vegetables a little overcooked. I found the raw basil to be a bit green and jarring--though he really enjoyed it. And yes, those are his arms.

Again, I was far too late with the camera here. The Chocolate Tartufo was the highlight of the meal. The cake was very nearly a pudding, and fantastic when paired with the ice cream. Suddenly, the SU was unhappy he'd finished his entire meal and was full. But he made room somehow for a few bites.

Great things about Pastini:

  • More than half the pasta dishes are vegetarian. To see this in a mainstream restaurant blew us away.
  • Portions are human-sized. I'm sure I've mentioned a few times how I hate to be piled with more food than any human can or should eat in one setting. Pastini gets it right.

Pastini is a family restaurant, and we saw several come in while we were there. The setting is easy-going, the service is very good, the prices are extremely reasonable, and the food is what I'm craving when I think Italian. This one's a keeper.

Sunday, 08 May
Il Piatto

2348 SE Ankeny St.
Ordered through D-Dish
Appetizer: Bruschetta alle Verdure
Me: Ravioli di Salmone Fumato, Chocolate Torte
Spousal Unit: Risotto al Funghi, Orange and Chocolate Cassatta

Il Piatto is not for the faint of taste. With very strong flavors, this Italian is for the gourmand. Which, sadly, Spousal Unit and I are not so much.

The Bruschetta all Verdure was garlic bread with three different toppings--a bean spread, a warm spinach salad, and a marinated tomato salad. The white bean spread was very much like hummous with beans. Very strong and warm. The spinach salad included fully as much chopped garlic as spinach, and the tomato salad looked like an inviting salsa. The first two tasted very strongly of raw garlic, and were a bit too much for me. The SU liked all three, and made them his dinner because...

...there is such a thing as too much mushroom. The Risotto al Funghi was far too strong, and was an exceedingly unappetizing grey color. I know one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but with food, appearance counts!

My smoked salmon ravioli in a lemon cream sauce was done perfectly, but again, a little strong for my taste. A true foodie would no doubt have absolutely loved it. The ravioli was a surprise--I expected cheese or another filler with salmon there for flavor, when in fact the filling was salmon all the way. And excellent salmon at that. The capers were a bit overdone, and certainly overwhelming with the already quite tangy lemon cream sauce.

What saved this whole meal was dessert. Il Piatto's chocolate torte is the stuff of dreams. Perfectly balanced, rich, with a flavor that keeps changing and deepening as a bite is held in the mouth. I also got a taste of the Spousal Unit's Orange and Chocolate Cassatta, which was much lighter, and a well-balanced blend of citrus and chocolate. I believe I detected a hint of hazelnut as well.

We will probably order again, but only dessert. Our peasant palates were overwhelmed by the rich flavors of Il Piatto.

Saturday, 04 December
The Sad Decline of La Terrazza

Okay, it wasn't the best, but they were handy, and I used to like them, but after a more recent lunch and dinner there, I've realized that La Terrazza is no longer the yummy corner it once was.

The first clue left me, frankly, aghast. Our server came over to our table, introduced herself, and wrote her name in crayon on the paper table covering. She even wrote it upside-down so we could read it. Did I land at Chuck-E-Cheese's? Was this not a winelist and a nice cloth napkin I saw on the table?

She continued hover and laugh at inappropriate moments (for those who are wondering: no, I don't blame her, and we tipped well as usual) as she brought me a strip-steak two temperatures overdone (I didn't bother sending it back, as the whole meal was looking doomed), and Bill a pasta primavera that gives new meaning to the word "uninspired". My reaction after the meal: "I can get cardboard at home." It really was that bland, from bread to sauce. They used to have great sauces, fresh veggies, and good care taken in the kitchen. All that is gone, and so am I.

Thursday, 22 July
Bastas Trattoria

410 NW 21st Ave. (via d-dish)
Arancini
Bistecca di Manzo alla Griglia
Basilico e Mozzarella
Cost: about $40

Oh, but this was goodgoodgoodgoodgood. Wonderful food and great vegetarian options make this a keeper.

Arancini is a "saffron rice fritter stuffed with a ragout of zucchini and eggplant with fresh mozzarella". This is now tied for favorite appetizer with Porto Terra's stuffed artichoke hearts. It is a delicately crispy Sno-Ball of mellow rice, filled with a creamy blend of savory veggies. Foodgasm Central.

My steak (boy, I order that a lot) was excellent. Just the barest bit unmoist. It was even the correct temperature, despite being delivered. It came with tasty sauteed spinach, and heavenly mashed potatoes.

Bills' Basilico e Mozzarella was also delicious. A simple blend of penne tossed with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and garlic, it was skillfully prepared, each flavor cooperating perfectly.

While it won't replace Porto Terra as our favorite, Bastas will probably be our first choice for Italian from Delivered Dish.

Saturday, 10 July
Romano's Macaroni Grill

300 SW Yamhill St.
Stuffed Portabello
Capellini Pomodoro
Tuscan Rib-eye (I think)

It's been about a month since we went to Romano's, and I keep forgetting to write about it. Normally, we'd just go again so I could have a fresher impression. This is not an option. Not that it matters--I remember the experience (with the exception of what, exactly, I ate) quite well.

The Spousal Unit was miserable. His allergies were acting up, and he was sneezing his poor beleaguered brains out as we bussed to the restaurant. We were looking forward to a clean, air-conditioned atmosphere where he could recover. Unfortunatly, Romano's is rather like being at a barbeque. The entire restaurant was filled with a smokey haze from the grill. Whether this is ambiance or design flaw, I do not know; I only know that it was extremely unpleasant.

Our server, bless her heart, was very concerned about my suffering spouse, and did her best. For the exceedingly overbearing service, I blame neither her, nor any of the other staff. It's clear they are trained by the chain to interrupt your meal every few minutes and ask: "Is it great!? Do you love it!?" (No, I'm not kidding--it's unbelievable.)

The meal was exactly what one would expect from a national chain--straight middlin'. Nothing wrong with it, but nothing exceptional. I enjoyed the stuffed portabello very much. Bill's pomodoro was edible, but nothing like he's used to (from Porto Terra), and my steak (I'm pretty sure I had one--ah, fickle memory), was adequate. Nothing that would inspire us to again brave the (bbq) pit and the friendlylum.

I do feel for the waitstaff there. We tipped well and fled.

Monday, 15 March
DeNicola's
Saturday, 25 October
Porto Terra

Where: On Sixth just south of Yamhill
Bill: Mushroom risotto
Kitty: Veggie ravioli of the day
Dessert: Flourless chocolate cake with cherry gelato; cheesecake with carmelized apples
Cost: $50

At first I was concerned about the lack of separation between the bar and the dining room, but Porto Terra makes it work. It's not your typical bar--no loud music and lots of light. It didn't bother us much.

I liked the decor, and the table was comfortable. Yes, I'm saving the best for last.

That is some damned fine food. The chef at Porto Terra understands that cooking vegetarian is not a limitation. My ravioli was stuffed with cheese, veggies, and a small amount of nuts. The sauce was a light veggie broth (my only complaint: a little too salty), and topped with slices of mozzerella that were thin enough to melt into the dish. Just heavenly.

Bill's risotto was equally fantastic. The risotto itself was covered by a layer of fried zucchini, giving it the texture of a savory pie. The risotto was cooked in the same broth as my ravioli, giving it a strong, deep flavor. As good as the ravioli was, I'm ordering the risotto next time.

The desserts were good, but not spectacular. I did enjoy the ice cream very much--it had a strong note of cinnamon. And bless them for having a human sized portion of cake--enough to eat, not die from.

We'll be visiting Porto Terra again. I'm anxious to try the rest of their fare.

Sunday, 19 October
Sylvia's
Monday, 27 January
La Terraza
Alessandro's
Sunday, 12 January
Pasta Bella
Thursday, 09 January
Piazza Italia

Portland is a city of restaurants. Really, really good restaurants. Mediocre food doesn't survive for long in our competetive market. I love this place. The hubby and I have developed a habit of trying at least one new restaurant per week. Because we live in the River District, we're unlikely to run out of new places--within walking distance!--in my lifetime.

Last night's foray was to the delightful Piazza Italia, at about 11th and NW Johnson in the Pearl.

The Piazza has a very casual, cafe-like atmosphere. Thursday is Italian-only night, but you'll still hear mostly Italian on any other night as well. The lighting is bright, and soccer plays on a television in the corner. Prices are very reasonable--dinner and dessert for two was about $30. And oh, what a dinner.

Bill and I both had specials, of which there were several. He went for the puttanesca bolognese, and I had the lobster ravioli in a light cream sauce. The flavors were strong--Bill's puttanesca was full of wonderfully pungent olives, mushrooms, and anchovies. The ravioli was sneaky--only after chewing for a second or two did I get the "oooh--good lobster!" sensation. We usually share a dessert, but we couldn't resist trying two here. We naturally had to try the cannelloni, but I'm a big gelato fan, so we had the cherry gelato as well. The cannelloni was very good, but the gelato made my eyes roll back into my head. Excellent.

Piazza Italia also embraces one of my favorite restaurant practices: feed one person, not six. I loathe the American habit of serving enough food for a small independent nation. Piazza's servings are perfect for the flavor and richness of the dishes.

Great service, casual atmosphere, and authentic cuisine makes Piazza Italia one of our favorite finds so far.