In 1999, Monique Siu — the pastry chef and co-owner of the now-closed, thoroughly Portland Zefiro — opened her own restaurant on Southeast Hawthorne, Castagna. Chef Kevin Gibson, now of Davenport, served elegant dishes like grilled quail and butter lettuce salads alongside French and Italian wines. Over time, the restaurant headed in a more modernist direction, thanks to the presence of chefs like Mugaritz expat Matthew Lightner and WD-50 alumnus Justin Woodward. The through line, over the years: An emphasis on seasonal ingredients grown in Oregon, transformed into top-of-their-class dishes.
Just after passing its 20-year anniversary, chef Justin Woodward and Siu shut down the restaurant’s dining room in response to the accelerating COVID-19 pandemic. After more than three years of relative radio silence, Siu and Woodward have announced their decision to close Castagna officially.
Portland Monthly first reported the news, noting that Woodward, Siu, and sommelier Brent Braun are choosing to focus on their more casual wine bar and restaurant next door, OK Omens. PoMo’s Karen Brooks also reports that the team will open “an intimate dining experience in a room hidden in the back of Castagna,” theoretically arriving later this year. Siu partially attributed the decision to close to a decreased interest in fine dining and tasting menus, at least at the current moment.
In its more than two decades, Castagna was one of the city’s most ambitious restaurants, one of very few true fine dining restaurants in the city; at certain times, some may argue it was the only one in town. It was home to some of the city’s great success stories, from Olympia Provisions’ Elias Cairo to Berlu’s Vince Nguyen. It hosted a nationally celebrated sommelier, and some of the city’s strongest pastry chefs. While at Castagna, Woodward was nominated for a whopping seven James Beard Awards — five finalist nods, two semifinalist.
During Castagna’s lengthy hiatus during the pandemic, Woodward sold a few meal kit boxes, but generally, the chef focused on OK Omens. Originally pitched as a wine bar, the restaurant has settled into its role as one of the city’s great restaurants, with hand-made pastas and Castagna’s same emphasis on seasonality.