Finally we have confirmation. Pinocchio, the Italian restaurant in the south park blocks, has closed. From its opening, it was criticized for the off-putting renderings of art which featured Pinocchio noses, and the overall, somewhat garish decorating. These things could have been overlooked, but the food never rose above mediocre. Still, it is sad to see a restaurant going under, especially when jobs are hard to find these days.
Here is their final note:
Pinocchio has closed its doors to the public. We want to thank
everyone for their great love and support for us these past two years.
We appreciate your patronage tremendously and hope to see you all in
some other form in the future.
Please know that Pinocchio was a business based on love and genuine
appreciation for food, wine, and friendship. We had a terrific time hosting you here as our
family. Again thank you so much.
That kinda blows. I admit I was a staunch and frequent supporter when they opened, but as time went on the quality of food didn’t seem to diminish as much as the originality of the original menu was lost. I don’t think they ever got the local foodie crowd that they were going for but instead had to dumb down the menu for the hotel and pre-theater crowd that I think made up most of their customer base.
So has Mamma Mia, the last bastion of red-sauce Italian in town, gotten any better in the last couple years?
I had a really good meal there about a week after it first opened. Sad to hear another place closing.
Matt Davis says
As a resident of the building that will now have to suck up the HOAs from the vacant space downstairs, I could be happier.
But the food in there sucked. I want to see a family style Italian place like the one in the Pearl on Johnson, just off Jameson Square. Trouble is, the former Pinocchio’s space is just too large and imposing to feel intimate.
The trick is to appeal to the Schnitz crowd, and those from the hotels, without being more expensive than the Southpark, and still be able to pay the rent.
I agree on the decor, too. Jesus Christ. Some serious cocaine must have been consumed prior to signing off on the plans for the long-nosed-Mona-Lisa.
Matt: What ‘HOAs” are you sucking up with Pinocchio gone. That space is privately owned and costs you zip. Duhhh.
Michelle is exactly right. Duh, Matt.
And the irony is that Matt walked away from his commitment in this building and HE IS THE ONE WHO STUCK THE OTHER OWNERS WITH HIS HOA DUES!
Leo Touza says
I certainly agree with Matt, and the issue with Pinocchio is maybe that since people didn’t feel that the food was all that great, and if you skip over one block to Park/9th and Salmon, you have Pastini Pastaria right there with their fast service and cheap food.. Pretty family friendly, too. Pinocchio always seemed way overpriced for the kind of food that they offered and I hope someone else who knows what they’re doing can open up a new restaurant there and make it better.
That said, is it just me or is it very, very difficult to find a quality Italian restaurant in Portland? We have just about everything else nailed down (except Cuban- god I wish we had a better Cuban restaurant) but we don’t have a real landmark Italian place aside from maybe Caffe Mingo and Serrato, the only two that come to mind.
Food Dude says
Nostrana, Alba, Bastas all come to mind.
Regarding Cuban, Eric Laslow opened Malanga a couple of years ago on Fremont, using recipes from his childhood. The food was good, but too “Cuban” for most red sauce/pasta eaters who want familiar, warm, cheesey cheap food. The restaurant never caught on.
So, I agree that a good Cuban place in Portland would be great, but I doubt enough people share this point of view.
Leo Touza says
That’s interesting. I grew up in L.A. and I moved here from Miami a couple years ago (spent about three years there) so I’ve grown to miss the variety of Latin foods in the area.. there’s barely any places to even get a decent empanada around Portland!
It seems that a place like Pambiche has the right idea, but a terrible execution- a cafe style place with a decent brunch and cheap mojitos for happy hour is the right place to start for Cuban, but it confounds me why Peruvian cuisine has been able to catch on so well but Cuban food is so lacking except for the occasional ropa vieja or lechon (roast pork) or fried plantains you’ll find around here. We could really use some innovators in that area. Maybe I should go and bring my mother in and start a place when the economy gets better, sheesh.
Leo, given your background, i’m curious to hear what you think about Cafe Cubano. It was mentioned in the newspaper recently. Maybe you could do a First Impressions write up about it for Food Dude?
Food Dude says
I posted that press release yesterday: http://www.pdxfoodpress.com/?p=4242, and was wondering if anyone has been. I do like good Cuban food, but only if it is really authentic
Leo, I am curious what you mean by “quality Italian restaurant”. I’ve found that places in Portland (yes, we already have them) that remind me of my Italian (Gualdo Tadino, Perugia) cousins’ cooking may satisfy my craving for what I think is quality Italian cooking, but the same place is mocked and criticized by others in town who have different views of what quality Italian really is.
You can’t please all the people all the time.
Leo Touza says
I completely forgot about Basta’s and Alba Osteria, two places I have yet to try in town so I guess there are a few places. I like come normal pasta joints, but it just seems to me that there aren’t many fine dining options for Italian in the city. Now, I live in downtown so I’m not wholly familiar with a lot of places on the Eastside, but even then I’ve been able to find a few other cuisine options- French, Mexican, Thai- without much difficulty but Italian has always seemed difficult to find for some reason.
I’d like to know what you think are the places that remind you of your Italian cousins’ cooking, even if they’re mocked by others.
Serotta (better now, but not exclusively Italian)
Ken’s for Pizza
Not a “great” place that comes to mind, but plenty of very good options. All reasonably “authentic” (God, I hate that term).
Joe already beat me to it, but Ristorante Roma, Cafe Allora, Piazza Italia are 3 of our favorites in Portland. At Roma, we can actually order in Italian which makes the experience even more fun for us. We’ve enjoyed Alba too.
Does Gino’s count as “real Italian”? I like it a lot, but I don’t know how traditional it is. What about The Italian Joint on Hawthorne? Never been there, but heard good things about it. 3 Doors Down? When people think of “real Italian” are they thinking of southern Italy? East Coast red sauce joints? That’s what I generally think of, but I know that Italian cuisine is much more than that (thanks to Marcella Hazan).
“Does Gino’s count as “real Italian”? ”
My vote would be no.
Bella Gioia, opened a couple of months ago in the Pearl right next to Everett Street Bistro, is definitely real Italian. Great pizza, made by two young pizzaolos (pizzaoli?) brought in from Italy. Nearly as good as Ken’s.
Matter of fact, between that place, Piazza Italia and Allora, I’m continually amazed by how many real Italian places are in the neighborhood. As in, lots of customers and employees all speaking Italian to one another alll the time. Caffe Umbria, the coffee place right across the street, falls into that category too.
Mostly Running. says
Piazza Italia and Allora get the Italian language class/AA meeting overflow that used to happen up on 21s at Torrewhatsitsfinnames.
If the food has changed so be it, but appearances mean nothing as far as the food goes.
We helped a friend celebrate at Belle Gioia and it was fabulous. Great ambience, cute Italian waiter, rockin’ gnocchi and comp rosemary flatbread instead of bread at the table. The wine was reasonably priced, too. It’s a really nice little spot.