Nostrana restaurant in Southeast topped the reader survey as the Best Italian Restaurant in Portland every year since they opened. Not so in 2015. Ava Genes jumped Nostrana by 4%, making it a clear winner, which surprises me because it is also probably the most expensive Italian in Portland, with large plates starting at $35. I am glad to see Firehouse and Luce making their first appearance on the list. Overall, I think our Italian scene has come up in quality over the years that I’ve been doing this survey.
1,318 of you cast votes:
1. Ava Genes -16% of the vote $$$
- Details: This is the real thing; good food as you would find it in many parts of Italy. The ingredients are absolutely top-notch, and the preparation is generally good. I tend towards the small plates, as I have found the larger “Secondi” less to my liking. Don’t miss the burrata. Trust me.
- Hours: daily 5pm – 11pm. Make a reservation – you’ll probably need it.
- 3377 SE Division St., Portland 97202 Map (971) 229-0571
2. Nostrana – 12% My review $$
- Details: Another wildly popular authentic Italian restaurant. Nostrana is not a house of pasta though you’ll always find three or four on the menu. I go here for the house charcuterie, the radicchio salad, the halibut and the thin crunchy Italian pizza.
- Hours: dinner Sun–Th 5–10, dinner Fri–Sat 5–11, lunch Mon–Fri 11:30–2. Make a reservation, or go at lunch.
- 1401 Southeast Morrison St. Portland, Oregon 97214 Map (503) 234-2427
3. Mucca Osteria – 6% $$$
- Details: Traditional Italian cuisine, with a focus on local sustainable ingredients. Try the tasting menu 5-courses $60 to get an idea of what this chef can do. I like the cavatelli with house made sausage and black truffle, the Milanese di Vitello “breaded Nicky’s Farm veal loin, baby potatoes, shallots, arugula and cherry tomato salad, sage-garlic cream sauce”, and any of the primi.
- Hours: Mon – Fri 5pm – 10pm
- 1022 SW Morrison St., Portland 97209 Map (503) 227-5221
4. Firehouse – 3.98% $$
- Details: Most everything here is based on the wood oven, so expect crispy pizza, lovely rotisserie chicken, rotisserie porchetta, wood grilled hanger steak and the like. They have some 3-course dinner options with a small plate, a salad and any entree for $30. On warm summer evenings, this is my favorite patio in Portland.
- Hours: Mon – Thur: 5pm – 9pm, Fri & Sat: 5pm – 9:30pm, Sun: 5pm – 8pm
- 711 Northeast Dekum St., Portland, OR 97211 Map (503) 954-1702
4b. Piazza Italia – 3.98% $$
- Details: small plates such as bruschetta, fresh salads and lots of pasta dishes are the draw here. The atmosphere is low-key, funky, soccer decor. Frankly, I don’t get it, but lots of people love this place. The tables out front are very popular on nice evenings.
- Hours: lunch – daily 11:30am – 3pm. Daily 4pm – close.
- 1129 NW Johnson St Portland, OR 97209 Map (503) 478-0619
5. Luce – 3.42% $$
- Details: Luce reminds me of many little places I’ve eaten in Italy; a low-key yet intimate restaurant with a wide selection of antipasti, pasta and at least 5 specials every night. In 2012 they made Bon Appetit’s list of the Best New Restaurants in America, coming in at number 4.
- Hours: Daily, 11am – 10pm
- 2140 East Burnside St., Portland, OR 97214 Map (503) 236-7195
- Details: I can’t speak to the food here, as they seem to have just changed chefs, but experiences in the past have been just fine, producing good Italian food in a unique environment. Walk through the kitchen to enter the dining room, and once you sit down, most of the 20 or so chairs have a great view of the chef in action. Resist the urge to stir a pot, and join the rest of the party. There is convivial atmosphere that encourages discussion between tables; something I always enjoy. Try the tasting menus matched with wines.
- 5519 NE 30th Avenue, Portland, OR. 97211 Map (503) 946-8592
- 2013: Nostrana, Ava Genes, Mucca Osteria, DOC, Piazza Italia
- 2012: Nostrana, Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, Piazza Italia, Cafe Mingo, Genoa, Ciao Vito, DOC, Accanto
- 2011: Nostrana, Genoa, Pizza Italia
- Olive Garden, yes I am serious, they food taste just as good as any other place and they give you unlimited soup or salad, and bread sticks for the SAME price or CHEAPER then most of these other places.
- Little Italy’s Trattoria – I am also part Italian. Excellent sauce..:)
- Piazza Italia – Oh, those Italian waiters…
I’ll say it: Firehouse sucks. The pizza is soggy and appetizers are mediocre at best. I was shocked and figured they were having an off night because it has such a good reputation, but I’ve heard similar reports from friends who have also had first visits recently.
Firehouse does suck. Food is too salty. Food overpriced.
Julie Myers says
It is really helpful to hear which restaurants in this area have the best Italian food. I really like Italian food, so I think it would be really great to try one of these out. Authentic Italian is so great, so the fact that these restaurants try to use good ingredients and prepare them authentically is great. When I’m in this area sometime, I will be sure to try one of these out. Thanks for sharing this survey list!
Olive Garden? Really? What’s next: The Spaghetti Factory? How about McDonald’s Cafe? I was dragged to an Olive Garden by my in-laws and it was ‘schiffoso., The Olive Garden shows how unguided tourists think Italians might eat, it if only food was cheap and tasteless like it is in the US.
Sadly, most authentic Italian restaurants in the Metro area have to use flavorful produce and high quality meats and cheeses to taste Italian, which means they are usually very expensive, and beyond my price-point. Maybe my old favs on Lake O and Mississippi areas, which weren’t mentioned at all, are out of business!