Nostrana translates from Italian as "ours," which hints at their inner pride.
For our last meal in Portland, all signs pointed to Nostrana. Earlier in the day, our Interview with bar manager Douglas Derrick piqued our interest in the restaurant with demonstrations on cocktail derring-do and wood-fired visions of the open kitchen. We brought reinforcements for our SCAA-week finale and had a rewarding dining experience.
Longtime Genoa chef Cathy Whims opened Nostrana in 2009 and this year, she earned a 2012 James Beard Award Finals appearance in the Best Chef Northwest category. The hangar-like space features exposed wood beams, a “candlelit” chandelier, and plenty of rooster and pig/boar statues. The name translates from Italian as “ours,” meaning Nostrana’s inclusive.
On the menu, they provide “Thanks to our farmers & purveyors,” including Cattail Creek Lamb in Junction City, Shepherd’s Grain in Spokane and Wild Things in Beavercreek.
We started with a fun twist on Caesar salad, Insalata Nostrana ($10) starring crisp, slightly bitter radicchio, a Parmigiano dusting, rosemary-sage croutons and Caesar style dressing.
Roasted Beet & Cauliflower Salad ($12) included toasted pistachios, mache and ricotta salata.
From that point, we delved into pastas: Matthew Kang asked, “Are they big portions?” Derrick responded, “No, they aren’t. They’re about fist sized, made of love.”
There was certainly plenty of “love” in Pork & Green Garlic Cannelloni ($17), three savory, supple pasta packets with blistered tops, cardoons, chives and sharp Parmigiano.
Capellini ($14) was delicate, coated judiciously in Marcella [Hazan]’s No. 3 tomato butter sauce and dusted with more Parmigiano.
They flecked thin strips of Fettuccine ($16) with a regional favorite, smoked salmon, and bathed noodles in a comforting sauce of chervil, white wine, shallots, and spinach cream.
Nostrana cooks pizzas in an attention grabbing oven that burns maple, cherry and alderwood.
They present Pizze uncut, and we definitely preferred Margherita ($12) with molten house-made mozzarella, vibrant tomato sauce, and oversized basil leaves. The crust had good chew and nice blistered edges.
Mushrooms are deservedly famous in Oregon and Funghi Verde ($16) pizza touted hedgehog and shiitake mushrooms, along with more mozzarella, garlic and sharp shaved Pecorino. The arugula blanket made the pizza feel more like a salad. It would have been better to get a clearer taste of the mushrooms.
Nostrana’s rotisserie also burns maple, cherry and alderwood. We had to order at least one beast from the spit, and selected Smoky Rotisserie Chicken ($20), a winning bird plated with a fried kale polenta brick and honey braised collards. In the American South, vinegar often helps cut into collard’s bitterness. Here, it’s honey. The Sicilian tomato marmalade added bright acidity and sweetness.
We appreciate what they’ve managed to accomplish at Nostrana by combining crafted cocktails with seasonal, scratch cookery, and a warm, rustic setting.