In Portland, which lacks any tradition of family-run Italian cuisine—or any notion of tradition at all—the truly courageous move is to buck the silly notion that only nouveau-cuisine whimsy should prevail and instead open an old-school Italian trattoria (in the trend-addled Pearl, no less) serving simple, rustic, casual meals. No obligatory Northwest fennel salads, no misguided “bold” fusions, just a bunch of guys with Italian accents serving up old-country fare in a fanatically fútbol-friendly environment (AC Milan scandals be damned). The sort of place where old Italian men nurse their vino rosso in the early afternoon, the waiters flirt loudly with their tables, and the kitchen serves up one housemade pasta specialty (pappardelle, excellent), a note-perfect Bolognese ragu and an even better squarciarella. Remember that? That thing they used to call…charm?
Order this: Linguine squarciarella, pappardelle with boar ragu.
Best deal: Free Italian lessons if you ask nicely.
I’ll pass: The green salads are an afterthought.