Cathy Whims is gambling that wine still has legs in a cocktail city. Eat Beat has learned that Portland’s Italian food doyenne plans to open Enoteca Nostrana in early March, a 40-seat wine bar focused on European wines (a good number from the natural or experimental school) with an emphasis on personal service. Newly hired wine director Austin Bridges, whose knowledge and point-of-view list was a high point at Northeast Portland’s D.O.C. restaurant, will spearhead the collection. “As a diner,” says Whims, “I always want to try something new. I also want that trust; someone who can help me select something I’ll be sitting with for an hour.”
While Nostrana has a rustic feel, Enoteca Nostrana will skew more modern, with midnight blues, a marble-topped bar, and metal-framed bar stools with cork seats. The space will also house two private dining rooms. The menu, still in progress, will be tightly focused on what Whims calls “iconic regional Italian dishes.” Most interesting may be her quest for the perfect spaghetti: the best dried pastas, best canned tomatoes, and best condiments. Diners will pick their own toppings from a food lover’s list that includes anchovies from Cetara, tiny black olives from Taggiasca, and grassy Olio Verde olive oil. “Nothing says Italy more than simple spaghetti, done right,” Whims says.
Also watch for rotating dishes and special dinners to “keep the kitchen inspired,” from fried chicken and Champagne night to a special of focaccia di Recco, a flatbread oozing pungent stracchino cheese. “I’ve been to Recco twice, and watched how it’s made,” says Whims. “I’m excited about that one.”