More than 20 years ago, while Portland restaurateur Adam Berger was learning to make pasta in Montelupo Albese, Italy, he would watch the matriarch of the the restaurant bake her daily focaccia: Pans slid into the wood-fired oven, and bread would emerge airy and crisp at the bottom to be placed at the tables in the dining room. “I can still remember tasting it when it came out of the wood-burning oven,” he says. “I’ve just been really, really intrigued by focaccia for quite a while.”
Berger is perhaps best known for his Kerns Italian pasta shop and market, Montelupo, though the chef ran a number of different Italian restaurants in Portland before then — the super-casual polpette spot 24th & Meatballs, and date night favorite Tabla. Berger’s next venture: A focacceria and market in Portland’s Westmoreland neighborhood, opening this week in the former Baes space.
Montelupo Italian Market Southeast will offer many of the market items found at the original location — take-and-bake pastas, salad, tiramisu, dried and fresh pastas, jarred sauces. What separates the two businesses is the focus of their dine-in menus: While the original restaurant and market specializes in a range of pastas, including Tabla’s beloved tajarin with truffle butter, the new Southeast location will skip the noodles in favor of focaccia sheets and pizzas, picked out at the counter by the slice or full slab.
In Rome, pizzerias often sell rectangular or oblong sheets of pan-baked pizza — pizza al taglio — laid out as if it were in a pastry case; visitors pick and choose a style, which is then cut and sold by weight. Berger removed Baes’ counter seating to make room for a focaccia display in the same style, where customers can pick and choose varieties. Every day, the shop will offer a range of simple focaccia styles, specifically sea salt and olive oil, Castelvetrano olive with rosemary and oregano, and cacio e pepe with pecorino and Parmesan.
However, the shop will also have a variety of more complex options, using the focaccia as a foundation for a sort of thicker-crusted pizza al taglio. The shop will typically have three meat options and three vegetarian options. Of the meat options, one combination pairs Italian sausage with broccoli rabe, while the other gives potatoes and fontina the salty touch of guanciale. The vegetable options range from a zucchini and artichoke to roasted sweet pepper with goat cheese.
The focaccia will also support a couple of sandwiches available at the Southeast Portland location: a salumi, also available at the original restaurant, and a veggie sandwich with arugula, mozzarella, pesto, and heirloom tomatoes — for as long as they’re in season.
Montelupo’s new location is located at 1613 SE Bybee Blvd.