Editor's note: A shortened version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of Portland Monthly
Gabriel Pascuzzi, the chef-owner behind Stacked Sandwich and NW Portland’s Mama Bird, was moments away from signing a lease for his new grain bowl concept, Feel Good, when the pandemic broke. As is the case with so many chefs and restaurateurs, hopes for staying afloat—to say nothing of expansion—are up in the air. Instead of scrapping the concept, Pascuzzi temporarily transformed his exceptional sandwich operation at 1643 SE 3rd Ave into Feel Good’s headquarters.
Starting Wednesday, May 20, Feel Good will crank out five $11 bowls, all vegetarian or vegan, each with a customizable grain including cauliflower “rice,” red quinoa, or bulgar wheat (plus a salad). The basic formula goes like this: 3–4 cooked vegetables, a smattering of raw or shaved vegetables, an herb garnish, and a sauce. Proteins are optional: you can add Ota tofu, Painted Hills flat iron steak, or Mary’s chicken for a few extra dollars. The Smokey Roots, for example, cradles smoked beets, charred onion, sautéed kale, and roasted carrot. The whole thing is tossed in garlic-sumac yogurt and showered in dill, mint, carrot tops, pickled mustard seed, and bee pollen.
Feel Good, Pascuzzi says, was inspired by the popular grain bowl offering at Mama Bird, which opened in fall 2019 and quickly became a local favorite despite a hiccup involving wood-fired neighborhood smoke pollution. Grain bowls are far from new (Tusk's offerings have been a longtime PoMo favorite), but if Stacked Sandwich is any indication, Pascuzzi’s talent lies in taking something well-worn and elevating it to new heights.
“Everyone’s been eating junk food and baking—banana bread galore,” he explains. “I figure it’s probably a pretty good time for grain bowls. We got a lot of feedback from people who loved it as a pre-workout meal. Even though it’s filling, you feel light on your feet.”
As for Pascuzzi’s other operations? Mama Bird is currently doing special dinners to-go but hopes to switch to a more versatile, “normal” takeout operation in the coming weeks. Stacked, meanwhile, will take a backseat to Feel Good. Meat prices and small ticket items make operating a sandwich shop during the pandemic untenable, he says. If and when restaurants reopen, Pascuzzi will pick up the search for a permanent brick-and-mortar home for his new grain bowl operation and the Oxtail French Dip sandwich (blessedly) will return, once again, to Southeast Industrial.
Order online (or call 971-279-2731) for pick-up, Caviar for delivery