You know you're gonna get good eats when you're standing in line behind a respected chef. And that's how it was at Justa Pasta (1336 NW 19th Ave., 243-2249) last Thursday night as owner Roland Sarfagno finally opened the doors of his lunch-only fresh pasta place to dinner. Paul Ornstein, chef at Southpark, was on hand to help celebrate Justa's evolution into a nocturnal creature. "This is one of Northwest Portland's biggest secrets," he told Miss Dish before heading to a table secured by a posse of Provista-ites.
Roland and his wife, Jessica, started out simply as wholesale providers of fresh pasta. To give you a sense of how good it is, know that when you're eating ravioli at places such as Higgins, the Heathman, Caffe Mingo, Wildwood and Gino's, there's a good chance you're biting into a Justa product.
After moving the business from Hood River to a kitchen in the industrial end of Northwest in 1995, the noodlers were inspired by the lunchtime crowds swarming a nearby burrito cart. Justa invaded the space next door in 1999 and started serving simple and inexpensive pasta dishes such as bucatino (a variation on spaghetti) with garlic chili oil ($4.85 for a large) and three-cheese ravioli with fresh basil pesto ($7.75 for a large). Even though this part of the city (more than a diamond's throw from 21st and not quite as gritty as The Bucket near I-405) seems almost deserted, there are plenty of hungry people hunkered down inside buildings working, and they've swarmed to li'l Justa. "I've been fielding questions about when we were going to open for dinner for as long as I've been open for lunch," says Roland. Judging from the crowd on the first night, it looks like the secret is finally out. See for yourself 4:30-8:30 pm Monday-Thursday and 4:30-9:30 pm Friday.
Now, more mascarpone from the tiramisu of the restaurant world:
!Item! Zinc Bistrot, that French place taking over the highly dramatic corner of Northwest 21st Avenue and Glisan Street, opens officially June 8. Yet things were kicked into high gear with an opening party last Friday complete with velvet rope, long, contentious lines for cheese and all the feel of being trapped in a Japanese subway car. Everyone Miss Dish chatted up agreed that the hard work that the owners had put into remodeling the place to rid it of certain ghosts has worked magically. Check out these pages in the near future for a full-length review of the restaurant.
!Item! Italian stalwart Assaggio just announced that it is abandoning its no-reservation policy. Well, almost. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays they'll be accepting reservations. Friday and Saturday nights are reservation-free except for parties of six or more.
!Item! Portland's oldest restaurant, Huber's, has discontinued its no-hat policy. The restaurant now claims the dress code is "upscale casual." And Satan laughed.
!Item! BridgePort Brewing just launched its latest concoction--Streetcar Ale, named for that sprightly little public trans project set to hit the rails soon. Since the little train that could goes near BridgePort, you'll be able to chug-a-lug and hop on board.