5519 NE 30th Ave., 946-8592, docpdx.com.
[IMBARAZZANTE CIAO] DOC’s foyer/kitchen leaves a strong impression. You arrive into the chaos of a galley in the middle of service. It looks like a cohort of grad students pressing the professional-grade appliances in someone’s mom’s McMansion into service. Busy cooks ignore you until the hostess—she’s out on the sidewalk pouring wine for a herd who arrived without anywhere to sit—points you toward a table. You show yourself to your seat, then everyone spends the next two hours doting: refilling your glasses, folding your napkin when you go to the restroom and serving you some of best modern Italian food in the city, all to a Santigold-heavy soundtrack that must play from an iPod with a spinny wheel. The antipasti are seasonal, but sure bets. In late summer, we loved both a plate of yellow watermelon cubes with Calabrian chili powder and three dollops of sharp chevre, and a plate of green beans, peaches, blackberries and Parmesan. Cavatelli ($18) appears regularly as a pasta course, served on a recent visit in a pestolike sauce of minced kale, Parmesan, hazelnut and ham. Of the main courses, a hunk of perfectly pink albacore served with a chutney of tomato, squash and corn easily bests gnudi stuffed with soft ricotta and served alongside roasted whole baby chanterelles and padron peppers. Desserts are rich, buttering you up for the exit. You face the staff again on your way out, but it’s much less awkward.
Ideal meal: If you’re going to wing it, get two fruity salads, one pasta, a fish dish and the richest dessert on offer.
Best deal: You nonetheless shouldn’t wing it. If I had to do it over, I’d do the tasting menu (five courses, $60), which is a steal.
Pro tip: While walk-ins are welcome, this is one of about eight Portland restaurants where a reservation is absolutely recommended.
6 pm-close Tuesday-Saturday. $$$.