Renata is perhaps the biggest stand-alone dining build-out we'll see for a generation. These days, few restaurateurs have the stomach for 3,000 square feet of pink granite with 110 old-school chairs imported from Amsterdam and *lights cigar with $100 bill* its own parking lot. Worse, the room is anchored by a wood-fired oven, and a wide swath of Renata's menu was dedicated to wood-fired pizzas just as every neighborhood in the city was getting its own Forno Bravo.
Renata has an excellent and diverse cocktail menu, which eschews the current custom of tripling down on one or two spirits and instead builds a list that allows you to pick your poison from recipes built around many of the world's great distillates. The $10 bread plate was a minor scandal when Renata opened, but I've grudgingly come to accept that the quality and portions, plus the house-cultured butter, justified it. The antipasti have been uniformly impressive, especially an early-summer plate built with burrata, shaved squash and crunchy chunks of gnocco fritto standing in for croutons.
But what really stands out, and what accounts for Renata's lofty place on this list, are the pastas, which have set a new standard for Portland with chef Matthew Sigler's knack for delivering an umami punch balanced with a little brightness on perfectly al dente noodles. Those pastas change often, but on our visit they featured a pork-filled agnolotti bathed in butter with walnuts, cheese and sultanas and fat strips of maltagliati tossed with woody chanterelles, fresh white corn and a little lovage.
The pizzas are still the weakest part of the menu, but have markedly improved from the early days. They've dialed in the crust, but our Bolognese pie was unbalanced, with a stewy meat sauce and bitter broccolini overwhelming the delicate ricotta.
Happily, you can now get great pizza all over town, while nowhere else can match the rest of the Renata experience. It might be a while before a new spot even tries.
Pro tip: Renata also operates a casual breakfast and lunch spot, Figlia. It’s expensive and not very good. Avoid.