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One of Portland’s Finest Pasta Carts Has Closed

L’Unico was a breakout hit food cart of 2020, with its cart-made pastas and exceptional brunch fare. Now, it’s gone, within days of its first anniversary

A close-up of tangles of pasta with shaved cheese and green onions at L’Unico
Bucatini carbonara from L’Unico
Brooke Jackson-Glidden / EPDX
Brooke Jackson-Glidden is the editor of Eater Portland.

In March of 2020, a food cart opened on specializing in Italian snacks and sandwiches. It couldn’t have been a worse time to open a food business: Coronavirus was starting to spread through Oregon, and even food carts were encountering a slowdown in business. Within a few weeks, however, L’Unico — owned by Portland native Caitlyn Hamel-Spencer and Italian chef Lanfranco Paliotti — hit the radar of Portland diners, floored by the cart’s meticulously crafted pastas and standout Sunday brunch menu.

Despite its growing fame, Paliotti and Hamel-Spencer announced Sunday that the cart had closed for good. “Every beautiful stories (sic) have an end, but in life every ending is just a new beginning,” an Instagram post on the cart’s page reads. “Yesterday was our last service, we decided to take two different paths.” The cart was a week away from its first anniversary.

It’s unclear if the decision to close was directly related to the coronavirus pandemic or not; the post doesn’t specifically note a slowdown in business related to COVID-19, and neither Hamel-Spencer nor Paliotti have responded to requests for comment.

Regardless of the backstory behind the closure, L’unico is another star gone too soon, closing within its first year. The cart’s simple carbonara, made with a bucatini for the brunch menu, was one of the city’s finest, and the cart’s specials often involved dazzling in-season produce and pristine seafood. Those pastas earned L’Unico a spot on Eater Portland’s Italian map, but this outlet was far from the only one wowed: Michael Russell at the Oregonian wrote that the cart’s pastas as “could hold their own against all but a handful of Portland’s best restaurants,” and Portland Monthly’s Katherine Chew Hamilton described the cart’s adored Dungeness-burrata tonnarelli as “simple yet indulgent, humble but with a touch of New York fine dining glamour.” It’s worth keeping an eye on the cart’s Instagram; hopefully the aforementioned “two different paths” involve new restaurants or carts in the Portland area.

L’Unico [Official]
L’Unico closing announcement [Instagram]
L’Unico Alimentari food cart makes some of Portland’s best pasta, period [O]
Best Thing We Ate This Week [PoMo]