They're going to have to install cattle pens on Third Street in McMinnville when word of this gets out: Peirano & Daughters deli, the retail shop for Fino en Fondo cured meats, and a grab-and-go spinoff of Nick's Italian Café next door, began to quietly put out buffets of Italian appetizers last month on Thursdays and Fridays. But here's the kicker: The entire spread is free with the purchase of a half-glass of wine, which costs just three dollars.
Called "Aperitivo" by husband-and-wife chef/owners Carmen Peirano and Eric Ferguson, the happy hours offer a self-service selection of Italian nibbles to go with that half-glass of red, white or sparkling wine pulled from the shelves of the Vino Arcanum wine shop that shares the space.
The menu is an ever-changing and free-form selection of their favorite dishes, items pulled from the Nick's Café walk-in, or dishes taken from the deli's selection of Italian specialty items. "It allows people to sample things like anchovy juice before they buy it," says Peirano. There might be as many as a dozen different items, like oysters on the half shell with prosecco mignonette; paper-thin cucumber slices wrapped around shrimp or crab; slices of Fino in Fondo cured meats wrapped around arugula; quartered artichokes with a pot of bagna cauda; and a chilled, green garlic soup.
The idea, she says, came from Umbria, where she and Eric met while staging as sous chefs at restaurants. "There was a break in the afternoon before dinner service where we would go to a coffeeshop or bar, and they put out little tapas. The idea was that people came in to snack and taste some wines, and the food was usually free. That's how we got to know people in Orvieto."
If you don't know the Nick's Italian Cafe back story, Peirano's father, Nick Peirano, opened the Willamette Valley icon in 1977. The venerable spot even earned a James Beard American Classics award in 2014. Eight years ago Peirano and Ferguson took over the management and cooking when Nick retired. They transformed the back dining room into a dark bar with a pool table (where Nick still holds court most evenings), installed a pizza oven and updated the restaurant's menu and dining room. Eric's love of traditional Italian cured meats led the couple to open Fino in Fondo three years ago in a warehouse space in McMinnville's industrial district, with a product line of salumi that is now distributed nationally.
The space next door to Nick's became available in the fall of 2013, and the family grabbed it. Peirano & Daughters opened in November of that year with one corner devoted to making fresh pastas for the restaurant and deli, racks that sell Italian specialty items and local gourmet products like Oregon black truffle oil, and a long counter that sells cheeses, prepared salads, soft drinks and espresso. Vino Arcanum, which is owned by Nick's Cafe's wine steward, Michael Stiller and his wife, Dawn, shares the space and sells a broad selection of international wines.
— By Jim Gullo
Peirano & Daughters, 525 NE 3rd Street, 503-687-2120. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, and 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. Closed Mondays.