While Burger Stevens founder and chef Don Salamone was growing up, every birthday involved one specific cake: yellow sponge soaked with rum, layered with cannoli cream, chocolate pastry cream, and standard pastry cream. It was his family’s version of cassata, a Sicilian rum cake often spotted in New York Italian bakeries.
Soon, Salamone will start serving his family’s cassata as the finale to a prix fixe menu at his incoming Beaverton restaurant. Don’s Favorite Foods will open this fall, serving versions of Italian American dishes the chef grew up eating on the East Coast.
In Portland, Salamone is likely best known for his popular burger cart, but the chef spent many years in fine dining before moving to Portland: He worked in Las Vegas restaurants like Joël Robuchon and Restaurant Guy Savoy, also private cheffing for celebrities. Thus, the dishes Salamone serves at Don’s Favorite Foods will filter through his experience in upscale kitchens.
Meals at Don’s will start with small courses of things like oysters casino, uni toast, and steak tartare, before larger bites like a slice of his mother’s eggplant Parmesan, served terrine-style in a small slice. It’s a dish some Portlanders may know already: During the pandemic, the chef started a takeout pop-up, Stevens Italiano, specializing in his nostalgic comfort foods — like his mom’s eggplant Parm. “My mom made it all the time,” he says. “I made my mom’s version while I was working the Italiano pop-up, and people really loved it.”
Fresh pastas, extruded in-house, will come next, including bucatini, spaghettis, and rigatoni, changing periodically; Salamone is set on serving some version of spaghetti with clams, however. “Clams are quite possibly my favorite food, they’ll be on pretty much every menu,” he says. From there, dramatic mains like roasted veal shoulder with preserved peppers or ossobuco will land at the table alongside various vegetables, followed by a palate cleanser of lemon ice. And then, cassata.
When it comes to beverages, Seattle expat sommelier Adam Galbraith, who previously worked with co-owner Kate Laurents (Salamone’s wife), will handle the wine; the restaurant’s list will be about 50 percent Italian, Salamone expects, with a more global scope for the other half. Star bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler designed the restaurant’s cocktail list, which will consist of several batched options.
The restaurant itself, seating somewhere between 14 and 20 people total, is meant to be intimate and fun, with “midcentury lounge vibes,” in his words. “We wanted to do something kind of like a celebration,” he says. “Like every night is a holiday.”
Don’s Favorite Foods will open at 12500 SW Broadway Street in Beaverton.