In April, Portland restaurant legend Cathy Whims opened a wine bar next to her longstanding Italian restaurant Nostrana. Enoteca Nostrana, an electric new space filled with bright lights and brighter colors, is a knockout homage to a new era of wine drinkers, but its food menu, with its balance of simplicity and chic little details, isn’t worth a snub. But outside of walking right in, finding a menu has been tough — the website has nothing publicly posted, and Yelp is no help. Instead, enjoy this diner’s guide to eating your way through Enoteca Nostrana.
To start, Whims suggests guests grab a table on the patio, order a negroni or spritz, and then ask to talk to a server or sommelier about finding the perfect wine pairings. If Whims were driving the car, so to speak, she’d suggest the following dishes; wine and spirits director Austin Bridges chose these wine pairings to complement.
Smoked oyster dip
Served with house-smoked oysters, this dip is homey, simple, and a good opportunity to show off the flavors Whims loves most: Brine, sea, and salt. Bridges pairs the dip with a 2014 Domaine Labet Crémant du Jura, a blend of poulsard, pinot noir, and chardonnay. “The tradition of the jura (wines) have this salty, brininess to them,” he says. “They embrace seafood really well.”
Antipasti di Mare
This dish started with chef Devon Chase playing around with an octopus terrine, sliced thin with super-fresh fish — it’s now called a sopressata, served with a light herb gremolata and spiced pepitas. The rest of the plate plays with market availability: Right now, a seared tuna tataki sits on a green garlic puree with fried shallots, next to a salt cod bruschetta. With this, Bridges recommends something a little leaner: A 2016 Riesling Feinherb from husband-wife team Weiser-Künstler in Mosel; the delicate wine has what Bridges calls a “slate-y quality” that accentuates the flavor of the fish.
Traghetti al pomodoro con condimenti — Customizable pasta
While the team was developing Enoteca Nostrana, Whims knew she wanted a simple pasta on the menu. Bridges suggested adding optional condiments to a basic red sauce noodle, allowing people to create a build-your-own dish to complement the diner’s wine or personal palate. Toppings range from roasted olives to extra sauce, but both Whims and Bridges go for the hyper-briny: Fried capers, Sicilian Capezzana olive oil, and anchovies for Whims; capers, anchovies, and Calabrian chilies for Bridges. One of the notable options is a house chili oil, made using Ayers Creek aci sivri chilies. With the combo above — Sicilian oregano, chili oil, and garlic-chili breadcrumbs — Bridges went for the 2016 Vigneti Massa Derthona Timorasso, a white from the family that “really saved the (Timorasso) grape.”
Steak tritato — Seared tartare
Calling Enoteca’s seared tartare a burger would probably be sacrilege, but it’s... sort of close. Chase forms hand-chopped Laney Family Farms beef into a patty, sears it so it’s still extremely rare inside, and then serves it with rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. With this, Bridges opts for a sort-of orange wine from Galicia, 2015 O Pando from La Perdida Nacho Gonzalez. What about red meat and red wine? “I mean, I don’t really believe in that. At all,” Bridges says.
For a hot summer like this, Whims went back to her roots and chose a semifreddo, this one with nougat, pistachio praline, and citrus honey. “When we opened Nostrana 12 years ago, we were making semifreddo constantly,” Whims remembers. Bridges pairs dessert with La Bulle Sarthoise from Domaine Gigou. It’s lightly sweet but sparkling, which plays ball with desserts but doesn’t get too cloying.
Enoteca Nostrana is open from 4 p.m. to midnight daily, with a full bar, patio, and food menu. For more information, check out the website.
• Enoteca Nostrana [Official]
• Cathy Whims Wants to Teach Portland’s Newbies to Love Wine [EPDX]