Portland's Best New Restaurants 2018: Nostrana’s Little Sib Is More Than a Wine Bar
Enoteca Nostrana is not a waiting room. You might make that mistake once—after putting your name on the waitlist at Nostrana, the 13-year-old, barrel-ceilinged Italian mother ship next door and then shuffling over to this dark, narrow bar decked out with Italian futurist furnishings. But the new Enoteca Nostrana is its own experience: a wine bar with a tightly executed, stupidly comforting menu that cherry-picks Nostrana’s fanciest imports and crams them into sharable bites.
Take the “warm smoked oyster dip”: smoked oysters are chopped into salty morsels, thrown into a bubbling cazuela of melted raschera and pecorino sardo, and slicked in fiery orange Calabrian chile oil. The force of its smoke-salt-umami power will stretch your taste receptors to the brink. It’s the brainchild of Devon Chase, chef under Nostrana grande dame Cathy Whims, who runs a separate kitchen dedicated to the wine bar. (Meanwhile, wine pro Austin Bridges works the bar, psyched to talk about the 300-odd wines in the glass-front cellar a few feet from your table.)
You can do no wrong here. Little burrata dumplings oozing cream and sweet, aperitif-soaked black-berries; seafood “charcuterie” starring lemony octopus terrine, seared albacore, and buttery shrimp toast; weirdly, some of the best drop biscuits in town (Whims is originally from North Carolina), smeared with heavenly pimento cheese. Get the silly-sounding DIY traghetti in tomato sauce, access-orized with your choice of pantry items, fried capers to garlic-chile bread crumbs. It might just be the best goddamn bowl of pasta in the city.
Sure, go snack at Enoteca before moving on to Nostrana. But we’re more than content to waste our whole night here in this atmospheric, geometric space, sampling ragù lasagna or spooning vanilla gelato half-sunk into Riesling-soaked peaches. We’ll get back to that old Italian standby someday.