Portland has its fair share of restaurant waiting rooms—attached taverns with their own identities that help corral diners who have no patience for idling drinkless while hoping a table opens quickly.

There's Whey Bar, essentially a lobby with cocktails to keep you entertained before your name's called at Ox. There's La Taq, the spirited cantina that can get you through a layover on your way to Podnah's. And now, there's Bar Rione (810 NW 12th Ave., 503-954-1014), a welcome and already-bustling addition to Pearl District Italian spot Piazza Italia.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

Situated just around the corner from the Old World-style eatery and deli, the bar is an extension of the original neighborhood—or rione, as they're known in Rome—carved out nearly 20 years ago by the restaurant's late co-founder Gino Schettini.

Bar Rione turned a concrete box once occupied by a convenience store into a sophisticated cocktail party. Compared to the soccer-jersey-festooned walls and red, green and white color palette of the room next door, Rione's earth-toned Venetian plaster and honey-blond tabletops are downright subdued. But that only helps to make the more modern features pop, like a teal-braided chandelier that spreads across the ceiling canopy-style, or the glowing, electric-pink shelves illuminating thoughtfully arranged liquor bottles—it's behind-the-bar storage elevated to a fine-art display.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

The contents of those bottles are often combined to create Negronis, but if you find the harsh pinpricks of Campari too much to bear, the Bella ($12) is like a sweet kiss on the lips. The deep garnet-colored drink arrives in a sugar-shellacked martini glass, giving it the appearance of a holiday drink, but thanks to a juicy blackberry puree, it actually tastes like summer.

Bar Rione's wine program makes this place worth another visit—or another round. It takes at least a dozen distributors to complete the all-Italian selection, which recently included three natural wines and an orange.

(Justin Katigbak)
(Justin Katigbak)

Stave off hunger pangs while waiting for your big Italian dinner with a meat-and-cheese combo board. The variety of flavors and textures demands attention—from the delicate see-through-thin slice of prosciutto to a thick, chewy coin of wild boar, plus three types of cheeses from three different animals. The bite-size ($7) is recommended for one, but the generous portions could almost accommodate two as an appetizer. Same goes for the rusticini ($6), which is kind of like pigs in a buttery, flaky puff-pastry blanket.

All of that means that while Bar Rione may have been built as a waiting room for people landing elsewhere, it is likely to end up as the destination for many.