Piazza Italia

“He looked just like an angel,” my mom said dreamily, her eyes focused somewhere off in the distance. “Who? Dad?” I asked skeptically, looking over at my Dad, who was peering over his spectacles at his E-trade account, grimacing at the computer screen and not looking much like an angel at all. “That boy who brought my pasta at that little Italian restaurant you sent us to,” she said. “He had these golden curls that framed his face, and they glowed when the sunlight hit them, like a halo, and he looked just like an angel.” She sighed rapturously.

Piazza Italia reminded them of Italy–the pasta, the wine, the World Cup games on the big screen, the accents, the bickering.

“Nice kid,” my dad piped up, “Refilled my iced tea every time it got near the halfway mark.” He brightened at the memory. My dad would make a terrible food critic, he’d give four stars to any restaurant with exceptional iced-tea refilling abilities and a good burger on the menu.

“And the spaghetti mare,” my mom went on in that same sappy voice. “It was delicious…the sauce was so fragrant, and the pasta was so fresh, it must have been handmade. It was just like the pasta we had in Orvieto, remember that little trattoria?”

My parents had been bitten by the Piazza Italia bug and were certifiably smitten, which I’ve noticed, is nothing new. When my favorite Brits, Matt & Sian, lived here, they were mad about Piazza Italia–or “Piazzer Italier,” as they pronounced it. It reminded them of Italy–the pasta, the wine, the World Cup games on the big screen, the accents, the bickering. They ate there at least once a week.

You’ll be equally taken with this likeable little Italian joint-meets-pretty Pearl District, if you can get past the sometimes insufferable clientele, like the lady at the table next to me, who kept asking “Shu-Shu” if he wanted “some of Mommie’s yummies” and using her fork to poke bits of wild boar ragu sauce into Shu-Shu’s furry chops. You can’t blame Shu-Shu for lapping it up though, Piazza Italia tosses delicious, satisfying homemade pastas like the creamy proscuitto and  black pepper-kissed Linguine Squarchiarella and hearty lasagna with meat and bechamel sauce. Start your meal with the popular Antipasto Italiano plate–grilled vegetables, beans, and smoked salmon, or the Insalata Bresaola–dry cured beef with arugula and a bright touch of lemon, don’t hesitate to order a bottle of wine off the 100 % Italian-wine list, and get dessert so you can soak up this boisterous slice of Italian life just a little bit longer.

Details

Cuisine: Italian

Owner: Amy Schettini and Kevin Gorretta

Atmosphere: Bright, cheerful, lively little upscale-but-not-stuffy Italian place with football fever and significant sidewalk presence

Outdoor seating: Yes, a long row of sidewalk tables line the front of the restaurant along quiet NW Johnson Street

Best Seat: They're all great, but if the weather is nice, try and get a sidewalk table

Noise Level: Energetic to Boisterous, depending on the crowd

Dress Code: Casual, although patrons often dress up a little

Bring the Kids: Yes

Bathrooms: Yes, through the doorway to the left of the kitchen

Parking: Parking is metered (Mon-Sat 8am-7pm, Sun 1-7pm), and is fairly easy to find on surrounding streets

Cocktails: No

Wine: A purely Italian wine list with whites, roses, sparkling, sweet and red wines, heavy on the reds, by the glass, carafe and bottle ($22-$90)

Corkage: $18 per 750 mL

Ideal Meal: Antipasto Italiano, insalatona, bucatini all'amatriciana, cannoli

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes

Vegan Friendly: No

Good for the following occasions: Date Night, Out with Friends, Family Dinner, Homesick for the Old Country, Football (Soccer) Mania

Catering: Piazza Italia caters events of all types and sizes, call 503.478.0619 or email piazzaportland@gmail.com for more information.

Reservations: Yes, call 503.478.0619

Take-Out: Yes

Delivery: No

Catering: Piazza Italia caters events of all types and sizes, call 503.478.0619 or email piazzaportland@gmail.com for more information.