FOR A YEAR, the SE Belmont Street storefront that was home for nearly four decades to the legendary Genoa restaurant sat vacant, its darkened windows a testament to the crumbling economy. But last December, Genoa reopened under new ownership, bucking the local trend toward casual dining by embracing the white-tablecloth refinement that earned its former incarnation a reputation as Portland’s special-occasion destination.
Former Vindalho executive chef David Anderson leads the new kitchen, creating menus that travel every two weeks between Italy’s culinary microregions. An early-spring dinner, for example, showcased the mountain cuisine of Umbria, nodding to the waning cold season with upscale renditions of hearty, earthy fare. The five-course prix fixe meal began with a warming, albeit unexciting, soup of brown lentils, while the subsequent pasta choices featured strikingly simple egg-yolk noodles tossed in butter with pungent garlic and smoky black truffles. A delightful farro salad mingled chewy grains of wheat with chicories, crisp apples, hazelnuts, Sangiovese vinaigrette, and razor-thin shavings of piquant gorgonzola. Entrée options ranged from a grilled ruby trout basted with aromatic fennel, garlic, and red wine vinegar to medallions of robust wild boar finished with unsweetened chocolate and prunes.
Concluding such a meal with a decadent chocolate soufflé or imported artisanal cheeses might sound like overkill, but each dish here is perfect-ly apportioned so as not to feel too heavy. And if the ultimate formal dining experience proves too posh for some Portlanders, Genoa’s new owners have hedged their bets with a more informal café/bar, Accanto, which is—as the name means in Italian—right next door.