High ceilings and snug booths wrap this Sellwood joint, which offers something rare in Portland: good, old-fashioned Eye-talian-American food that’s deserving of the entire family but doesn’t lower itself to “factory” levels to make it happen. Gino’s is pasta and hearty tomato gravy, steamed clams and white sauce, lots of garlic and red wine. Huge, aromatic bowls of mussels peek from buttery broth that begs to be soaked up with the crusty garlic bread. The cioppino overflows with salmon, squid and shellfish, nestled atop homemade spaghetti. Unfortunately, the Caesar salad’s dressing lacks real pungency, and the filet mignon is cooked a touch too rare and served with bland green beans and garlic mashed potatoes that must be the only thing on the menu without enough garlic. But these lapses are eclipsed by Gino’s mastery of Italian staples. Crumbling sausage cuts through polenta with tones of red pepper and fennel, and one bite proves the pasta isn’t store-bought. The staff is charming and attentive, and eager to help with the overwhelming wine list. Desserts sound good, but who has room? (ES)
Signature dish: Grandma Jean’s red sauce: Nonna’s protein-happy take on tomato sauce combines beef, pork and pepperoni into hearty Italian soul food.
Standouts: Ample, aromatic appetizer of fresh mussels; yeasty housemade noodles; perfectly paired sausage and polenta.
Regrets: Filet mignon. Not bad, but just not Italian enough.