Ciao, amore, ciao. In 2015, the closure of Martinottis’, an ancient downtown fixture, meant saying goodbye to one of the city’s few Italian markets. The popularity of Italian restaurants waned, too, says Adam Berger, whose restaurant Tabla shuttered in 2016 after a 14-year run. “There were a ton of Italian restaurants, and then that all died for years, and other trends took over.”
Then, two years ago, Bella’s Italian Bakery & Market set up shop in Lents selling Italian baked goods and pantry items. “We’re just a fun, quirky bakery way out in East Portland,” says chef-owner Michelle Vernier. “We’re not fancy, but we make everything fresh by hand every day.”
This past summer, Berger opened Montelupo, a pasta restaurant that doubles as a market, just blocks away from the former Tabla space. The 2020 wave of Italian market-restaurant hybrids also includes Sebastiano’s and Cooperativa, offering more fresh takes on Italian food. Each market has its strengths, whether that’s muffulettas, ricotta cheesecake, fresh pasta kits, or Roman-style pizza.
411 SE 81st Ave, sebastianospdx.com
This Sicilian-meets-Pacific Northwest deli, opened in June, made a splash in Montavilla for its muffuletta crafted with Olympia Provisions meats and hand-stretched mozzarella on house-baked fennel seed bread. Some come for the cannoli, piped to order and adorned with chocolate chips and candied orange peel. But don’t overlook the charcuterie and cheese, handy grocery items like farro, and the baked goods.
The olive oil cake balances fruity, floral olive flavor with flecks of sea salt. Petite Sicilian cookies encrusted with sesame seeds or buttery squares with flaky salt go perfectly with your afternoon coffee or tea.
344 NE 28th Ave, montelupo.co
Enjoy the pleasures of a handmade pasta dinner at home without the sticky, doughy mess. Since opening in July, Montelupo has emerged as a frontrunner in the fresh pasta game. With a pasta kit for four, tajarin swirled in truffle butter or ribbon-shaped mafaldine coated with bolognese is ready in minutes. There are even take-and-bake pastas for two—no pots and pans to clean up. Now that’s amore.
While you’re there, stock your pantry with Italian regional rarities like Tuscan jarred dwarf peaches with truffles (ideal for martinis) or bergamot preserves from Calabria.
Bella’s Italian Bakery & Market
9119 SE Woodstock Blvd, bellasitalianbakery.com
This carb cornucopia offers straight-from-Italy pastries like filled-to-order cannoli alongside such Italian-American favorites as pepperoni rolls. Try the Italian train station sandwich, made with a few slices of salami or ham and provolone on focaccia under a handful of arugula. A smear of herb butter propels it far above Trenitalia fare. Sfincione, thick Sicilian pizza with anchovy tomato sauce, ricotta, and bread crumbs, is essential.
Arrive early for ciambella (cinnamony, lemon-zesty coffee cake) and knockout tiramisu. Ricotta cheesecake flanked by mouth-puckering lemon curd will make you weak at the knees.
1250 NW Ninth Ave #100, cooperativapdx.com
The newcomer of the bunch, this 5,000-square-foot Pearl District behemoth opened in August. The Italian market hall showcases different vendors, with an espresso bar from Spella Caffe, prepacked pints from Pinolo Gelato, and meat from Tails & Trotters alongside produce and pantry items, house-made pizza, fresh and dried pasta made in-house, custom panini, and a spritz-heavy bar.
Also worth a try: the thick-crusted Roman-style pizzas sold whole or by the slice, and the slices of pizza bianca (think focaccia, but lighter) topped with rosemary or Nutella.
Luce (2140 E Burnside St, luceportland.com) was early to the Italian market-restaurant trend when it opened in 2011. Pick up pantry staples, custom antipasti plates, bottles of wine, and desserts like panna cotta drizzled in pine bud syrup.
Beloved old-school Caffe Mingo (811 NW 21st Ave, caffemingonw.com) has installed a market during the pandemic, stocked with goods like fresh pasta, olive oil, sugo di carne, house-made mascarpone, and prunes poached in nebbiolo wine.
Enoteca Nostrana (401 SE Morrison St #105, enotecanostrana.com) has transformed into a bottle shop due to COVID, with an emphasis on Italian and European wines.
Though Providore (2340 NE Sandy Blvd, providorefinefoods.com) isn’t exclusively Italian, you’ll find all kinds of fresh pasta from Pastaworks, cheese and charcuterie for days, olive oil for every occasion, schools of tinned fish, and bottles of vino across the price spectrum.