Survey 2011: Best Italian Restaurant in Portland


This is another one of those questions where I was pretty sure what the top choice would be, but wanted to know what the others rated. I was a bit surprised, especially by the third choice. Maybe it is because it “feels” the most Italian of anywhere else in Portland that I can think of.

Out of 814 votes cast:

  1. Nostrana – 1401 Southeast Morrison St. Portland, Oregon 97214 (503) 234-2427 Map. My review
  2. Genoa -(now closed) 8%. 2832 Southeast Belmont St. Portland, OR 97214 (503) 238-1464 Map
  3. Pizza Italia – Distant. 1129 NW Johnson St Portland, OR 97209. (503) 478-0619 Map

Honorable mentions: Cafe Mingo, Ciao Vito

You can see all of the 2011 poll results here.


Your thoughts are welcome

  1. johnny says

    Cafe Allora and Bella Gioia both have an authentic feel to them and there both totally of the radar and well worth a trip!

      • johnny says

        Owners of both place are from Italy and Italian spoken they both have signs outside that are that are easy to walk by Caffe Allora I prefer its a cool little place to tuck into for a drink and some food. Have you tried either? There pretty fun!

  2. jimster says

    Hmm, what does Italian feel like? Where did Mingo, Ciao Vito and 3 Doors fair in this survey? Genoa is great but how often can you commit to the time and tab?

  3. CO says

    Piazza Italia “most Italian feeling in PDX”?
    If that were the case, then I guess the Matterhorn at Disneyland is an accurate depiction of the Alps.

    • Food Dude says

      I only lived there for seven months, so I am by no means an expert, but yes, it reminds me off a lot of places off the tourist path

      • CO says

        which sounds a lot like the patrons I am used to hearing, starting a sentence with “this is nothing like I had in Japan when I went there!…”

        So in essence, what you are saying is, Italy is overrun with Dbags with soccer jerseys, spiked(frosted)hair, and overpriced/lackluster trattorias!? I guess I can save the airfare now….

    • glainie says

      Piazza is indeed far more Italian in “feeling”. CO, perhaps it’s beacuse of the three listed (and many more that aren’t) it’s the only one actually owned and operated by Italians.

      • CO says

        out of morbid curiosity I will ask…..why does the ethnic background of the owner make 2 shits difference to the food they are able to produce!? honest, albeit abrasively phrased question.

  4. garden girl says

    Nostrana? Really? I have never had a memorable meal there and the service fluctuates between lackadaisical and awful. Bar Mingo is wonderful; terrific pasta – the canneloni we had last week was divine – and attentive service.

  5. tom Piacentini says

    I think the best Italian restaurant in Portland is Ristorante Roma. It’s nothing fancy or innovative, but that’s why I like it. It’s the closest thing you will find in this city to a restaurant that you would actually find in Italy. That being said I don’t really think there are any great Italian restaurants here. I don’t actually think the Italian restaurants in Portland are worthy of this category. tom

    • jimster says

      Whatever. That’s ridiculous just on its face and it smacks either of willful stubbornness, snobbery or the bizarre perception that if a restaurant in America doesn’t look like it might be a restaurant in Italy than it’s not qualified to be an Italian restaurant. I would suggest you might need to get over your bad self.

      • tom says

        Great Italian restaurants come in many forms, I get that, but I find it unfortunate that there are not more Italian restaurants like Ristorante Roma. I like it’s basic menu, and the food is more similar to the food that I’ve had in Italy than at any other restaurant in Portland. If that makes me a snob, then I’m a snob, but it makes you someone who doesn’t know very much about Italian food. tom

        • jimster says

          Yeah, Tom you’re right. I worked two blocks from Little Italy in NYC and practically grew up in the North End of Boston. There are tons of great looking Italian restaurants in those places. Some serve great Italian food, others serve crap. I won’t presume as you did with me that you haven’t eaten all over Italy but an Italian restaurant in Rome is not going to look, feel, taste or smell like one in Alba or Florence or Napoli or Venice. Have at Ristorante Roma but to say that every other Italian restaurant in Portland is not even qualified to be up for “Best Italian Restaurant in Portland” is ridiculous. There are tons of Italian restaurants in this city that would hold their own with places all over the country as well as in Italy and if you don’t think that’s true you are either ignorant, stubborn to a fault or not as well versed in Italian food as you claim. Again, get over yourself.

  6. Food Dude says

    Since folks seem to be interested, here are some of the other rankings:

    3 Doors Down 14
    A Cena 10
    Accanto 24
    Bar Mingo 8
    Basta’s 10
    Caffe Mingo 47
    Ciao Vito 46
    DOC 16
    Fratelli 28
    Genoa 72
    Gino’s 32
    Iorio 28
    Nostrana 166
    Piazza Italia 50
    Serratto 22
    Tablas 16
    Three Doors Down 14
    Taste Unique 10
    As you can see, Caffe Mingo and Ciao Vito were not far behind.

  7. JD says

    Ah. Once again, diversity of opinion triumphs over the popular vote. There are so many other worthwhile places, mentioned in the above comments, that don’t even cover all the possibilities. While I enjoy Genoa for a special occasion, I don’t see it breaking into the top three. Sorry to see Cafe Lucca omitted from the results. Taste Unique deserves more recognition for its authenticity (yes, those are real life Italians running the place,) and there are others. I do agree with putting Nostrana at the top; whether or not it is owned by Italians, they embody the spirt as well as the techniques of Italian cooking, and treat it as a living discipline rather than a preconceived set of recipes. But to each her own, I say. If you want classic Italian/American spaghetti and meatballs, and that represents the pinnacle of Italian dining to you, Nostrana will not necessarily float your boat.

    Maybe an ongoing forum about where people are eating now would be more engrossing than a simple win-place-show type of result. This just tends to reinforce the stereotypical list of top places, and casts other talented cooks and interesting restaurants aside. We all love to pick winners and ‘bests,’ but the real world is more complex than that.

    I do agree with putting Nostrana at the top. Whether it is owned

  8. Anonymous says

    I don’t get the Nostrana thing at all. The pies have good flavors, but are always thin, wet, greasy messes, and the service has been terrible. I won’t go back. Accanto, Mingo, Serratto, Basta’s, Tabla, and 3 Doors Down are all much better, with overall quality as well as service.

  9. Jay says

    Two meals at Nostrana: dinner mediocre and lunch last meal there! Poor service, average food. Panini left a puddle of grease on the plate – didn’t need chapstick for a week. Go to Mezegra, Napoli, or Dublin for better Italian. Locally, Bastas or Serrato are better.

  10. abefroman says

    Portland is really missing the boat by not having Bucca di Beppo or Maggiano’s Littly Italy. Now there is some great Italian food, it hardly get’s any better than that, guess we will just have to settle for Olive Garden and Romano’s Macaroni Grill. Mmmmmm! all you can eat bread sticks and salad, Bellisimo!

  11. Bertha Pearl says

    According to Stefania @ Taste Unique, who is from Rome, via Puglia Italians in Italy do not eat meatballs and spaghetti together. Having grown up with East Coast Italian American food, Italian via Italy is a different cuisine entirely.
    If Stefania had a sit down dinner place, it would have won, hands down..I think she makes the best Italian food in Portland.

    • abefroman says

      “Get a side of spaghetti and I’ll eat the meatballs”
      “There are no meatballs with the spaghetti”
      “No meatballs? Why not?”
      “Sometimes the spaghetti, she likes to be alone”

  12. Frieda Lighthouse says

    I took a friend from Italy (Brescia area) to Piazza Italia. He said it was absolutely like being back in Italy and felt really at home there.

  13. Chad Attaccatura says

    What is it about the food blogs and these popularity contests. I’m certain that this like Eaters “Hottest Chef” contest is a closely watched poll, making certain that employees of restaurants don’t stuff the ballot box or vote more than once, etc…or make sure that there is 3 Doors down and Three doors down each get 14 votes and not a total of 28. Maybe food blogs could spend more time talking about the great food in this town and not the junior high school popularity contest.

    • Food Dude says

      We do them because people find the results interesting. The 2010 version is the most read article in the history of the site.

      I don’t know about other sites, but I go to a great deal of trouble to make sure the results are accurate, and to weed out as many people who are trying to game the system as possible. Every single vote is looked at – that is why it takes me a week to start posting the results. And yes, I check to make sure votes that are misspelled or where numerals are used instead of letters, and change them to make sure everything in the spreadsheets are spelled the same.

      If this still isn’t good enough for you, check out some of the other sites in the link list. I’m sure you’ll find another that might cater more directly to your needs.

  14. SE carolyn says

    I lived in Napoli for 3 years. Living in Italy does color your palate. You learn how regional they are about food and actually they have some rules and restrictions. Such as no milk products on seafood. There are very yummy reasons for this. However they also don’t drink Cappucinos after 10 am to avoid milk. Also not all restaurants in italy are good as well. But you can go authentic such as Piazza Italia which is typical for a trattoria, Cafe Umbria. Serrattos and Mingo are excellent for ristorante. Nostrana has great inventiveness in the spirit of Italian restaurants. Except it is loud, bad service. Iorio is good but they have this cream with clams aakkk.. Subrosa, ginos, Basta only ok. 3doors down overpriced. Tabla is not italian just because they serve pasta. Misto Pdx is a great find on belmont but not cozy. Accanto can be loud and hit or miss on menu. Fratelli was really good recently and I would like to try Taste Unique, Ciao Vito, DOC and A Cena. I am always on the lookout to get a weekly favorite cozy italian place. Viva l’italia.Buon Appetito

  15. grapedog says

    “Best Italian” is so subjective, depends so much on the background of the eater and the accuracy of their memory. It cannot be an objective discussion without throwing ricotta at each other (virtually). Some people have noted that they lived in Italy and therefore *their* version of what is good Italian in Portland is “correct”. Possibly. For me, Ristorante Roma reminds me of casual restaurants in the Assisi/Gualdo Tadino (Perugia) area of Italy where my cousins live and where we’ve had many memorable meals. I know I’m stating the obvious, but I wanted to chime in.

    BTW, most people in Portland cannot even pronounce “Nel Centro” properly, so the issue is much, much more than food….

  16. ItalianFoodFinder says

    Nostrana??? for BEST Italian? really?
    I can deal with the poor service, but not bad food.
    Very very greasy food. Not impressed by flavors
    at all. A HUGE disappointment for my boyfriend who
    grew up eating authentic Italian…and unfortunately, I
    brought him there for his birthday celebration.
    What a mistake! I’m embarrassed for
    the people at the James Beard Award foundation
    for considering this place!

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