[UPPER CRUST] Got something to celebrate? Nostrana is one of Portland's favorite places to hoist a negroni ($12) to a recent promotion and then spend half of the raise on a kilo of dry-aged St. Helens rib steak ($71). Pedigree is certainly part of that, since executive chef Cathy Whims has been nominated for the James Beard Award six times. And the room probably plays a role, too: Amid candlelit mahogany and traditional Italian murals, the staff provides the Northwest funk with prolific flora-and-fauna tattoos. One sparrow-inked bartender explains Nostrana built itself on the blackberry crisps and margherita ($12). Understandably so—both staples are reliably scrumptious. Pizzas are served traditionally uncut with silver scissors on the side. The rest of the menu is brief and overzealous in boasting hyper-local basils and butters, but it offers plenty of Italian ingenuity between Gnocchi Thursdays and Fish Fridays. Nostrana prides itself on "simple food from honest ingredients." Spanish octopus, freshly handmade mozzarella and a rare orange wine selection are hardly simple. But we're not complaining, and neither are the buttoned-up and bespectacled crowds who make reservations vital on weekends. ENID SPITZ.
Decide on dessert early since the blackberry crisp ($8) takes about a half-hour to prep, or plan to linger over after-dinner espresso.