417 NW 10th Ave., 295-9536, coppiaportland.com.
[PAIR UP] Timothy Nishimoto leads a double life. When not on tour crooning “Yolanda” or “Anna” with Pink Martini, he’s the graceful overseer of this relaxed but elegant spot in the Pearl District. Formerly the Vino Paradiso wine bar, it got its new name when Nishimoto realized that wine is never quite right without food. So Coppia (which means “couple”) is now devoted in equal parts to fine wines and fine foods from Italy’s Piedmont region, located at the top of the boot. Not everything works perfectly (the bagna cauda, an anchovy- and garlic-based dipping sauce, wasn’t quite emulsified), but servers are attentive without hovering, the pastas are well-made, and the lamb chops with fava, cranberry and cannellini beans are just about perfect.
Ideal meal: Crepinette ($10), a heavenly sausage of rabbit and pork with black truffle and watercress, tajarin, tender thin pasta with meat sauce ($11/$18) or sage butter ($9/$15), a hunk of buttery gorgonzola dolce with a luscious sauternes dessert wine.
Best deal: From 4-6 pm, wines by the glass are $2 off, antipasti are $6 and a small risotto is $8. Happy-hour prices are usually limited to the bar and outside tables, but if you call ahead and ask nicely, Nishimoto says you can enjoy them in the dining room, too.
Pro Tip: No one can possibly taste every great wine out there, but with wine flights and a willing tasting partner, you can readily sample six or more wines in an evening. Thanks to Coppia’s savvy selections, I have a new interest in the biodynamic Dominio IV wines out of McMinnville, and I’ve enjoyed a 2001 Barbaresco I wouldn’t have encountered any other way. Wine flights start at $10 for three 2-to-3-ounce pours.
4-10 pm Tuesday-Thursday, 4-11 pm Friday-Saturday. $$$.