Downtown Stalwart Martinotti's Will Close at the End of June
1978: A family of Italian heritage opens up shop on Southwest 10th and Stark selling imported Italian coffee, food, wine, and treats; the deli case is filled with prosciutto, salami, and pancetta for sandwiches. Suddenly, downtown Portland has something it didn’t have before: an authentic Italian deli and wine shop. The family operates with fair success, employing family members and connecting through their culture and heritage to the local community, forging friendships with long-term customers, many of whom still visit today.
Martinotti’s has always been a family-run business. Frank Martinotti, grandson of the founding generation, runs the store. His father, Armand, spent his life collecting wines from regions all over Italy, curating an enviable and impressive library of 10,000 bottles, some of which the store sells. Armand’s death in 2008 left his family devastated emotionally, and the simultaneous economic collapse slowed business. After nearly 37 years, Martinotti’s will close June 30, 2015, thanks (in part) to an all-too-common rent spike. Martinotti’s isn’t the first longtime Portland establishment to close suddenly, joining a ghost fleet of lost restaurants, shops, and bars felled by the city’s current real estate and rebuilding boom.
Beyond fluctuating property values, Martinotti’s is also a casualty of a dramatically changed consumer and food culture. The city’s au courant retail shops favor minimalistic, clean looks and pared-down artisanal inventories over the exuberant hodge-podge of an old-style imports shop. Once-exotic products are now universally available online, and Portland’s mass-market retailers long ago caught up with the Europhile taste trends to which Martinotti’s catered. Italian wines can be found at Fred Meyer, Safeway sells prosciutto, and New Seasons can make you a better Italian-style sandwich than most authentic delis in town. The niche market Martinotti’s once served has divided between those big players and a new generation of specialty shops—the East Side’s Oso Market springs to mind—that stock their specialties in boutique, modernist-classicist settings.
The pained expression on Frank Martinotti’s face as he talks about the end makes the cost of change plain. He would like to stay and continue to provide his family’s version of an authentic experience. But time, taste, and rent structures have marched on.