The restaurant that introduced many Portlanders to pizza in the mid-20th century is getting ready to reopen following a nearly three-year closure.
Caro Amico Italian Cafe, located in a bright orange building at 3606 SW Barbur Blvd., announced today it would welcome back customers in early August following a structure fire that temporarily halted service. That blaze broke out in September 2020. Repair work has been underway ever since—a lengthy process because of the extent of the damage (pretty much everything needed to be replaced, from the booths to the bar to the rooftop) and supply-chain snags.
Caro Amico first opened in 1949, when pizza was still relatively rare on the West Coast. Co-owners Fred Baker and Joe Fracasso originally intended to use the joint as a speakeasy during Prohibition; however, by the time they were up and running, the 21st Amendment had been passed, so they could legally sell alcohol alongside pies and pasta.
Elsie McFarland, Baker’s daughter, began managing the restaurant in the 1980s. She’s assisted in the reopening process this summer by her grandson, Sebastian Price. While the renovation has been taxing at times, McFarland says neighbors and regulars alike continually stopped by to check in on the business and construction progress. She even got to celebrate her 90th birthday inside the space just this past June in preparation for the relaunch.
Longtime customers should expect to see many of the original features—just brighter and shinier than perhaps they once were since McFarland and Price asked their contractors to retain many of the characteristics of the original dining room. The floor plan is also largely the same, so you can still enjoy your baked manicotti and chicken piccata with those amazing views of the South Waterfront.
“This restaurant fulfilled a real need for so many of our customers; it was a place they could count on to come in and have a wonderful meal and feel like they were almost at home,” McFarland stated in a press release. “I wanted to bring that sense of home and familiarity back. And I wanted to update a few items and modernize it a bit.”
Keep an eye on Caro Amico’s social media accounts for a specific reopening date in August.