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Downtown booms with new tasty spots; Thai ice cream has come to Portland; tickets on sale for Rising Star Award gala

COURTESY PHOTO - The Rising Star Award, April 18 in Portland, features local chefs and their dishes, including Bonnie Morales.Food trends will come and go, but comfort food has never gone out of style.

If there are two things Portland can never get enough of, it's a good, old-fashioned Italian family restaurant, and a funky twist on the old ice cream shop.

Bread & Brew has the scoop on both of those latest openings, both in downtown Portland.

It'll be all about the red sauce at the space formerly occupied by Pazzo Ristorante, a beloved spot for 25 years.

Opening in April, Il Solito (which translates to "the usual") aims to be a comfortable but modern space with Italian-American classics including house-made pastas, red sauce meatballs, antipasti and traditional dishes, like chicken thigh marsala and rigatoni with ragu.

"There's going to be a lot of flavor and attention to detail, extruding and hand-rolling pasta in-house and making our own sausage, but we're not going to reinvent the food — just modernize it a bit," says chef Matt Sigler, former executive chef at Renata — the award-winning restaurant that he left last year for personal reasons.

Northwest and Italian wines will anchor the bar program, with mid-century cocktails that have Italian roots.

The vibe, Sigler adds, "is going to be comfortable, but refined — where you sit around after dinner with espresso or limoncello and aren't in any rush to leave. We want guests come in time and time again and order their usual."

• We'd never heard of Thai rolled ice cream before, but apparently it's a thing — and now it's come to Portland. With popular outposts in Salem and Eugene, 22 Below has now landed in the Goose Hollow district, next to a Starbucks and mini mart.

With more than a dozen flavor combos, not even counting the array of toppings, it's a bit overwhelming at first — but then you dig in and fully engage in the process.

The kind ice cream maker will first scoop your flavor onto the extra-cold surface, mash it with spatulas, flatten it and then finally roll it up and arrange them in your paper bowl like a beautiful ice cream flower. Then it's topping time, and you can find fun ones like matcha Pocky sticks and Fruity Pebbles.

Ice cream flavors include Honey Bee (honey and lavender), Tea Heaven (matcha and strawberry), Campfire (chocolate, roast marshmallow, graham cracker) and Banana Cream Pie (banana, graham cracker, condensed milk, whipped cream and almond).

If you're still not convinced, how about this: They serve ice cream for dogs, too. It's a vegan ice cream, dairy-free and gluten-free, made with real banana and unsweetened coconut milk.

• Love Portland chefs and their incredible food?

Tickets are now on sale for one of the most exciting insider-ish foodie events of the year, when you can taste featured dishes from the city's rising chefs.

The Rising Star Award — a national event held since 2003 in 22 different cities and regions across the country — will be held in Portland this year on April 18.

It will celebrate some of the city's biggest-name chefs — this year's winners — including Katy Millard of Coquine, Bonnie Morales of Kachka, Maya Lovelace of Mae and her new Yonder, and Carlo Lamagna's forthcoming Filipino eatery, Magna.

Also award-winners this year: Trent Pierce of Roe, Justin Woodward of Castagna and Sam Smith of Tusk.

Each will prepare a not-to-miss featured dish: For instance, Pierce will do a butterfish sashimi; Lovelace will do Western Carolina dipped chicken; Morales will do rabbit in a clay pot; Magna will do a classic Filipino dish called beef pares — stewed brisket in spices.

Wine pairings will be led by award winners Brent Braun (Castagna) and Ksandek Podbielski (Coquine) and there'll be a featured cocktail menu from bartenders Adam Robinson (Deadshot) and Angel Teta (Ataula).

All-inclusive tickets to the event include 14 dishes, 14 pairings and three cocktails. It's 6:30-9 p.m. at Castaway Portland.

For tickets:


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