Cafe Castagna is, at its core, an any-night-of-the-week neighborhood standby next door to the white-tablecloth, more special occasion Castagna. But beyond the burger, flat-iron and mac-’n’-cheesy offerings, there’s magic to be had in this svelte, minimal dining room. A late-summer spot-prawn starter serves up three of the sweet and briny critters butterflied, sautéed and grilled for crispy head and roe-to-tail eating with saffron aioli, fried new potatoes and thinly sliced cured lemon. Another starter of chopped and sautéed octopus, fingerlings, olives, garlic and tarragon served with lightly dressed citrusy arugula is delicious. There are always a few pizzas to choose from as well as pasta, seafood, lamb and tasty housemade-sausage-studded entrees.
Order this: Baked Gruyère, cheddar and Hatch chile penne topped with breadcrumbs and an egg yolk.
Best deal: Tasty starters such as risotto fontina balls, corn soup and chorizo bunuelos.
I’ll pass: The Portland famous burger is good, but not amazing.