[OVERLOOKED ITALIAN] When Mucca Osteria opened its rustic downtown Italian bistro in 2011, Portland's typically excitable foodniks barely noticed. Too bad for them, because chef and owner Simone Savaiano is turning out some of the city's best Northern Italian eats in an open kitchen where he beautifully plates simplistic bliss. Start with antipasti like the gorgeously simple lamb carpaccio ($16) and seared scallops with a dollop of Parmesan fondue ($14), then continuine in expertly executed entrees like a butter-soft pork shoulder ($28). A glorious rabbit gnocchi loaded with herbal sprigs that—as part of the killer five-course dinner—represented one of the best things this writer has put in his mouth in years. Mucca excels not because of innovation, but because of a loving commitment to comfort food taken to the next level, making it one of the most overlooked restaurants in a city obsessed with hyping the next big thing. AP KRYZA.
At $60, the five-course dinner is a bargain, and a way to sample specials and standards together. A la carte, the items would total well over $100, and that's excluding the dessert wine that comes with perhaps the city's best panna cotta. Go for a special occasion—an anniversary, perhaps—and prepare to be treated like royalty.