Two weeks after it officially opened, this industrial eastside Italian spot launched by the son a prominent hedge fund manager was singled out for major praise in the daily paper's annual food issue.
The gorgeous space inspires adoration: airy, undivided and centered on two long wood slabs surrounded by old-fashioned classroom chairs. From the ceiling, copper-colored hooded lights hang between unvarnished wooden beams. It's huge and bustling—58 chairs and 12 bar stools inside, plus a patio that holds 35—and far too large to attempt a traditional fine-dining experience, though owners Nick and Sandra Arnerich both previously worked the front of the house at Napa Valley's French Laundry, arguably the world's best restaurant.
The menu changes daily but you want the pasta, bread and then also some pasta. Our $10 bread basket came with ultra-buttery focaccia, surprisingly fluffy Pugliese and spreads that include gooey-sweet honey butter with bee pollen and pleasantly grassy olive oil. The best thing I've had at Renata was an umami bomb of canestri, brownish-purple, porcini-inflected elbow noodles dressed with braised pork, toasted pine nuts and a dusting of salty Parmesan. Sadly, I haven't seen it on recent menus.
Pro tip: Wait awhile. By June 2016, Renata should be great.
GO: Renata, 626 SE Main St., 954-2708, renatapdx.com. 5:30-10 pm Monday-Friday, 5-10 pm Saturday. $$$-$$$$.