Oregon, and Portland in particular, is home to a lot of restaurants, bars, wineries, and breweries, but there are tons of hidden gems that the majority of Portlanders aren't unearthing. To help guide us to these potential discoveries, we've enlisted some of our city's many food players to share their recommendations for a recurring feature we call Dining Confidential.
Believe it or not, Nostrana’s Cathy Whims likes to cook at home as much as she eats out, and when she and her husband, David West, do decide to leave the house, they like to stay close to home in their own neighborhood. And with restaurants like Bar Avignon and La Moule nearby, why wouldn’t they?
But more than any other place, Whims says she tries to eat at least once a week at Burrasca, the Tuscan-inspired cart-turned-restaurant at the corner of SE Clinton Street and 21st Avenue.
(Whims says she likes it so much that it’s not unusual for her and West to eat there three time a week, adding that after returning from a recent trip to Tuscany, they immediately dropped by “in order keep the Tuscan experience extended.”)
“The food is authentic and this place is so pure and classic—it’s like an old-school Florentine restaurant from the 1970s,” Whims says. “They’re not trying to be something hip, and that’s what’s so cool about it, but most importantly, chef Paolo Calamai is the real thing, and worked at one of Florence’s most famous restaurants, Cibrèo.”
Among her favorite dishes, Whims lists Burrasca’s pappa al pomodoro—a bread-thickened soup “which translates to ‘mush of tomato’” (and which may very well be her favorite soup in the world)—its inzimino (a “crazy good” slow-cooked tomato-squid-and-braised greens stew, and presently, a summery “light and very restrained” eggplant parmesan.
Of Calamai’s pappa al pomodoro, Whims says, “Paolo’s version is fantastic because he makes his own bread with the perfect texture. This soup is especially good in the summertime with fresh tomatoes.”
Whims says she and West are also big fans of the Tuscan wine list, and they’re particularly taken by the Rosso Sant'Antimo, Casanova di Neri, Montalcino, which reminds them of previous trips abroad.
“Sant’Antimo is this tiny town with a little church that’s just down the hill from where we received the Leccio d’Oro Osteria award in 2011 for Nostrana’s Montalcino wine list,” Whims says. “Whenever we have this wine I think of that quaint little church.”