A cursive sign above Renata's open kitchen reads "Mi Piace," or "I like it." That hot glowing neon declaration of approval is a reminder of the early hype that surrounded the Buckman Italian spot's airy expanse from nearly the moment it opened in 2015. It took the eatery a bit to find its footing amid the demand, but now the talent there is fully realized. The sign now speaks to Nick and Sandra Arnerich's casually elegant eatery as reaching the status of indisputable institution.
The 3,000-square-foot space remains somewhat unwieldy—it's big and open, and the layout is reminiscent of a brewpub—but the food is made with an obvious, intimate care.
Chef Chris Frazier swaps out the menu routinely, including the impeccable housemade pastas, but you'll find hits no matter what time of year you come in. On our visit, the spaghetti alla puttanesca—stocked with anchovy, olives and poached albacore—was sharp and salty, and the margherita pizza ($15) was transcendent in its simplicity. But while the basics impress, the flashes of creativity truly stun. To that end, if it's available, leap at the scallop crudo with nectarine, whose flavors play off each other in surprising and delicious ways. Trust us, you'll like it.
Pro tip: There's a big patio. Use it.
GO: 626 SE Main St., 503-954-2708, renatapdx.com. 5-9 pm Sunday-Thursday, 5-10 pm Friday-Saturday