Portland's Most (Overly?) Ambitious New Restaurant: Renata

Our love letter (sort of) to the year’s most-hyped restaurant

By Karen Brooks October 9, 2015 Published in the November 2015 issue of Portland Monthly

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Dear Renata,

I still remember meeting you in May. You weren’t “officially” available, but the word was out: “Renata is secretly open!!” I lined up for your contemporary Italian cooking with all the other hopefuls. (Yes, after a year of bars and brewpubs, we were all desperate to find a serious food love.) You weren’t wild and esoteric like all those DIY pop-ups. I saw San Francisco swagger—and, lord knows, Portland doesn’t have much of that. Cool cocktails, confident wines, big flowers, blingy custom ovens, front-of-house creds from the French Laundry: you’d make my parents happy. That grilled pork chop with blackberry mostarda? Yes. And your scarpinocc pasta sealed the deal, with that ooey cheese tang and sweet honey-almond high. Four homemade breads in one basket? Impressed, even at $10. Who even makes one?

Those were the good old days (can we call them that already?) before you opened on June 1, for reals, only to flounder in hype and kitchen turnover. It’s not all your fault: the Oregonian did crown you “Restaurant of the Year” at age 17 (days, not years), heaping summer-blockbuster expectations and huge crowds on a budding project (and we know how well that usually turns out). But get it together! Your constant menu changes are making me dizzy—just pick a few dishes and perfect them. Stop with the concept antipasti, and please, figure out how to make a pizza worthy of that fancy wood-fired oven. I say this with love: those bombolone doughnuts are bombaloney. 

You seem like a great person. Truthfully, I could be a slave to your tomato leaf cavatelli, with its jade-green luster, perfect texture, and firecracking house sausage. It was the best pasta of the year, emphatically. You can be that good. I’ll be back soon, and hope you will, too.



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