Pasta and noodles in Portland

One of the joys of long-distance walking, running or cycling is carboloading. If you need that important prerace meal, go to Justa Pasta. Really cheap, really good, and Roland, the owner, ran last year's Portland Marathon, so you know he feels for you. Their super-garlicy caesar is one of the best in the city.

If you're looking for fancier carboloading, try Mama Mia's for the east coast/NJ style Italian-American cheese fest. The caesar here is nothing to write home about, but the pasta servings are quite generous. They serve a good stiff foofy drink too.

Basta's also makes a good drink, has an excellent wine selection, and is higher-end than Mama Mias and also higher quality for a more authentic tuscan meal. They offer—gasp!—free parking in their lot. And, another excellent caesar.

Bastas Trattoria

410 NW 21st Ave
(503) 274-1572
get there via trimet

BastasWhen it comes to taking visitors out to dinner, there are just a couple places I consider. Cafe Castagna, Ken's Place, and Bastas. These are my special occasion places, places where the atmosphere is good, the service is good, and the food, of course, is good.

Bastas is my favorite Italian. In a former Tasty-Freez. Yeah!

Though once you step foot inside, you might never know it. You enter into the sophisticated bar, and unless you're doing their excellent happy hour, you eat in either the garden room or the other room (I'm sure it has a name). They offer, of course, lots of wine, including by the glass, and a couple beers on tap.

Our downfall is the appetizers. There are quite a few, and they all appear to be yummy. The carpaccio is a full plate of raw thin-sliced beef dressed in olive oil and parmesan, with lemon on the side. The caesar is not as garlicky as I generally like but is still one of the best in town.

Entrees. Yum. The pasta is a little less spectacular than other dishes sometimes, however, it's good. But there is so much to love amongst the entrees. The $19 steak is the best $19 steak in town, cooked to order, nested with the most decadent mashed potatoes around. The crispy fried chicken (is that Italian?) is also so very good, crispy and moist and delicious. Their version of cioppin is a delight, with lots of broth to soak up. And the lamb chops cause my partner to go into fits of pleasure.

Desserts also are good, though a little bit of a let down for me after the whirlwind beauty of the appetizers and entrees. But the fact that you can park in their lot, right there around the restaurant, is pretty darn good.

Downsides: it's a former Tasty-Freez, so when it gets full, it's like a bus station. The chairs are fine if you don't spend too much time in them, but they're torture in a long formal dinner. And, I tend to spend too much money there.

filled under pasta, food on the west side
March 3, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Justa Pasta

1336 NW 19th Ave
(503) 243-2249
get there via trimet
lunch during the week, dinner 7 days

Justa PastaThis is one of my favorite restaurants in town, and I hate to even bring it to your attention, because what if you love it like I do, and suddenly I can no longer get in for my caesar and pasta fix? Justa Pasta started out as a pasta maker, and they still supply many high-end restaurants with noodles and ravioli.

The menu is made up of salads, pastas, raviolis, and specials. If you're being careful, you can easily get a small salad and a small pasta and come away owing less than $10. The caesar is one of the city's best, garlicy and sublime. Soups are consistently fantastic. But really, this is all about the pasta—a couple types of pasta, a couple types of ravioli, a handful of sauces, all housemade. It's great. Specials, always including several lasagnas... great. Cheesecake and other sweets... great. And, the owners are really good about posting the day's specials (as well as a current menu) on the website (imagine!).

Okay, so what are the downsides, then? One, you queue up for food. Grabbing a table before you order and get your food is really frowned upon, and seriously not cool. They have a couple of bottled beers, a couple of wines by the glass, or you can select a bottle of wine while you're queued up. Otherwise, find a seat in their remodeled restaurant/lounge, enjoy a sip of whatever you're drinking, and relax. Pearl Bakery baguette comes almost immediately. The service is efficient and friendly, but you'll have to get your own water refill or fresh glass of wine. (See? Why would you want to go there, really?)

filled under pasta, food on the west side
February 13, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)

La Capanna

1022 SW Morrison St
(503) 916-4388
get there by trimet
find a bike route

la capannaThe original Pasta Veloce location, which became La Terrazza, has reopened as La Capanna.

This tiny place with sidewalk and balcony seating has seen better days, but they still make pasta, panini and salads to order, serving the same dishes that PV and La Terrazza did. Prices are in the sevens for panini, $8-$9.50 for salad, and $6.75-$10 for pasta.

The lunch servings aren't bad: a pasta bowl fullish with a couple of pieces of grilled bread, quite attractive. And quite underwhelming. With the Pesto E Pollo, the chicken is dried out (nothing new there, unfortunately), and while the cream-pesto sauce is green, it's not terribly basilly. The artichoke hearts tasted freshly plucked from the can, with the brine still on the interior leaves. And, the pasta was gummy.

I don't want to claim that the original Pasta Veloce was incredible, because it wasn't. But sauces were simple and tasty.

Mind you, it's edible. But for $9.25, it should be a bit better than edible.

filled under Pasta in Portland, food in downtown Portland
August 9, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (2)

La Terrazza - SW 3rd

933 SW 3rd Ave
(503) 223-8200
get there via trimet

La TerrazzaOkay. Now the two La Terrazzas have two different owners, and I haven't been to the Morrison one lately. But, I have been to the 3rd Ave., and it recently changed hands and management. The crew turned almost entirely over. Pasta servings are now significantly smaller, and the sauces have been consistently off (too salty, not balanced, etc.)

Now that there's a Macaroni Grill within two blocks, it will be interesting to see what happens here. If they can manage to return to their origins—pasta, fast, reasonable and unpretentious—they have a chance.

filled under pasta, food downtown, pasta veloche
September 20, 2005 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Mama Mia Trattoria

439 SW 2nd Ave.
(503) 295-6464
get there via trimet
american Italian
dinner, late night

Mama Mia's
Mama Mia's, in spite of the name, has got some serious bordello going on. You shouldn't go in expecting the new Tuscan cuisine that is touted as Nouvelle Italian—this is the Italian of your childhood, redolent of cheese and red sauce, perhaps lacking in subtly, but... I'm not complaining, please!

Huge menu. Starters range from $4-10, with the standouts being the chopped salad, the zucchini, and the calamari. Individual sized 10" pizzas are $11-$12.

16 pastas come in huge portions, from $8-$16. The sunday gravy and gnocchi are crowd pleasers. The Losta the Pasta Lasagna has been uneven: perfect and well balanced one time vs eggplant undercooked and tough. Entrees range from chicken, beef, veal, and seafood, $14-$19, featuring all your childhood favorites: scallopine, parmigiana, milanese, alla marsala. Three of us got veal and loved it, though it was interesting to see how serving sizes varied on the same dish. (The veal, by the way, is free-range and naturally fed)

There are quite a few veggie options and the menu indicates a willingness to accomodate vegans as well.

The mixed drinks are impressive, and about the usual price. They do have 8 taps, with Widmer Hefeweizen, Widmer Drop Top Amber, Newcastle Brown, Moretti, Stella Artois, Lagunitas Censored and Bridgeport IPA. The pints are $4, unless they're Guinness, and then they're $4.75.

We finished the meal with about one of everything off their dessert menu. While dessert is not their strongest course, that didn't stop us from devouring almost everything before us.

You can make this a cheaper meal, or as we did, go completely overboard. I love coming here, it's like coming back to a childhood memory, except it totally doesn't suck. It's really a pleasure.

filled under american italian, mama mia, mama mia's, pasta, food downtown
April 18, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (0)


6830 SW Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy (at Scholls Ferry)
(503) 292-6480
get there via trimet
no frills noodles
closed Sunday & Monday

I've just become aware of these fast-food noodle joints, and I wonder if anyone pulls it off? It seems like a simple, fast food to make, however... Noodles is not the mid-west chain, nor is it the Burgerville effort. Noodles is basically just pastas, salads and bread, in a fast-food style restaurant and the place is popular with families. Caesar salad had an awful dressing, thai chicken linguini was inedible, but the beef stroganoff was pleasant, with chunks of beef and mushrooms. Salads run $2.75-$7.00, bread $1.50-3.50, pastas $5-$8.50. Beer and wine are available.

filled under pasta, food on the westside
November 25, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Spaghetti Factory

SW Macadam
lunch and dinner
madcap inexpensive pasta

If you are here from anywhere else, you might just think of the Spaghetti Factory as a chain, which is true. This is an excellent place if you want salad, pasta and dessert on a budget if you stay away from the alcohol. You'll see lots of families there, just for that reason. That, and the menu is very kid friendly. However, let's just be serious: the pasta sucks. But the prices are inexpensive, the drinks strong, and the view of the river downright intoxicating.

filled under pasta, food on the westside
April 11, 2002 | Permalink | Comments (0)



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