Housed in an expansive, high-ceilinged building tucked into the corner of a Buckman strip mall, Nostrana is a classic in just about every sense of the word, from the menu to its standing in the Portland food scene.
Chef Cathy Whims' perma-crowded Italian favorite has earned every accolade it's racked up over the past decade, from the six James Beard nominations to the shout-outs from Blazer players who rarely deign to dine on the eastside. And it's done not so much by futzing with tradition, but by doubling down on it. Here is where you'll get some of the city's most authentic Neapolitan pies ($10-$21)—soft, wood-fired, perfectly charred and served with scissors so that you can cut it, as is custom—and capellini pasta ($18) drenched in a straightforward tomato, garlic and butter sauce.
Wine is serious business, naturally, as the newly opened offshoot Enoteca Nostrana, located in a flashy space next door, illustrates. The sommeliers know their stuff, and don't presume you do. They will happily walk you through the deep collection, explaining just what "orange wine" is and that rieslings are traditionally dry, not sweet. But as much praise as the refined food, lengthy bottle lists and Thursday-only gnocchi receive, the best item on the menu might be the simplest. It's the insalata Nostrana ($12)—a tweaked Caesar that swaps romaine for sharp radicchio and transforms a basic starter salad into something sublime.
Pro tip: Speaking of that adjacent wine bar, Enoteca Nostrana is a great excuse to arrive a little early and sample the wine list before taking your seat.