Phone: (360) 737-2363
The first time my wife and I tried to eat here (last November), they were closed (during business hours) for renovations. The second time, they were open but out of veal, the dish I drove all the way across state lines to order. This review incorporates visits #2 and #3.
The place has the feel of an old, historic restaurant as you enter, but I was seated in the bar in the back which has recently been renovated from what I understand. There is another large dining room in between the two. The bar is dark and modern, and the drinks (based on what I saw on the menu) reasonable.
On Visit #2, the IPA and other drafts were $3.75 on the drink menu I received, so I ordered one to start, then another with my entree. When I was told they were out of veal after a busier than expected 4th of July weekend, I almost left, but was famished, so I ordered the Spaghetti Bolognese ($12) which was not bad. Most meals come with salad and garlic bread, a nice touch, my Caesar (or garden salad if you choose) being very good and the two pieces of garlic bread also very tasty. The Bolognese was a bit dry and lacked zest, nothing that some grated parmesan could not fix, making it much more flavorful.
I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt regarding the veal, so my friend and I returned the following Sunday for Visit #3. We ordered a bottle of Chianti ($20), a decent wine and value. My friend ordered a spaghetti dish topped with 5-6 shrimp tossed in an olive oil, garlic and lemon sauce which looked good, but was "nothing special" according to him. I finally got to try the Vitello (veal) Parmigiana ($19), an overly thick chop, not a cotoletta (cutlet) as is normally the case, buried under quite a bit of sauce and melted cheese that had been broiled a tad too long. Had the the same piece of veal been pounded out into a thin cutlet then breaded and fried, it would have appeared to be a much larger portion, perceived as a better value and a more appropriate presentation. I had Bolognese on the spaghetti once again with the same result as Visit #1. The marinara on the veal was actually pretty good.
When the check arrived on Visit #2, the IPAs were $5 instead of $3.75, so I asked why. "Oh, that's the Grand Opening menu ... You shouldn't have received that menu.", I was told. The bartender (and my server), a relative of the owners, quickly fixed the error and I paid the bill.
I really want to like this place because it would make a great new regular go-to spot for Italian now that we live in Portland. The owners and staff are all extremely nice, the environment a bit cheesy but welcoming, the prices relatively fair, and the food good, but not great. Saucier sauces, thinner veal, and a bit more seasoning would improve the experience, but if they have been using the same recipes (Neapolitan I was told) for 14 years, seeing change any time soon may be a pipedream. I have not found a decent, authentic, home-style, family Italian restaurant in the Portland area yet, having seen mostly foo-foo hangouts with tiny plates and big prices and very few that serve veal, a necessity in any Italian restaurant I am going to frequent.
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