**WW has not rereviewed Genoa since it reopened in December 2009. Look for a review of Genoa and its new cafe, Accanto, in the coming months. **
Very-special-occasion restaurants—the sort of place where you are willing to drop half a paycheck—must have the following qualities: picture-perfect ambience, hints of romance and poetry, assertive but unobtrusive service, and, most of all, food that is remembered long after the last bite is taken. For 37 years the humbly located but genuinely superior Genoa has done just that. But recent meals have found this once reliable prix fixe Italian kitchen scrambling to find solid footing—at least, in the haute cuisine department. The reason for the disconnect is unclear, but we do know that Adam Kaplan, who previously worked the line at both Bay 13 and Uptown Billiards, took over the kitchen's top rung in early September. At first blush, Chef Kaplan is holding his own, which is saying something considering Genoa's mystique was built on the reputations of local legends like former owner/chef Amelia Hard and Nostrana's Cathy Whims. But it's too early to tell if Kaplan can consistently rise to the level necessary to compete with Portland's elite eateries. The $80, seven-course prix fixe meal includes several stellar items, like a salad of roasted local beets that played nicely with pickled mustard seed and Gorgonzola, as well as a plate of tender gnocchi in a sea of boldly cured prosciutto and duck confit. But a meal here should dazzle throughout, and some courses only gave off a faint glow of what they might be—from a tasteless gazpacho and a too-salty escolar to uneven temperatures on other dishes. Even more surprising, despite the number of courses served, Genoa's '70s-spa-cuisine-size portions had this diner leaving the table wanting more. On a happier note, the newish cheese course is full of flavor, the desserts heavenly and the wine choices are still pricey, if priceless. Let's hope Kaplan gets his game face on—and fast.
IDEAL MEAL: If the economy hasn't swallowed you whole, try gulping down the $130-per-person grand tasting menu.