Recommended by several locals, neighborhood papers and magazine clip outs that mom kept sending me. Nostrana. When I first saw their website on restaurant.com there was a picture of a giant pig's head- which has somehow changed categories in my head from “ew” to "ah, an appreciation for meat.”
The ambiance was warm, dark, wood in structure, but kind of refined Italian farm house like. The menu had the date on it. That’s code for: this place is going to be good.
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Chris and I may love exploring Portland, but we went out on a little limb- at least for us. We started with the House Charcuterie. Our sweet waitress Gloria reminded us of what it was: “the house plate of meats and delicacies.” “Ahhh yes, we’ll do that.” I immediately recognized the pate on the plate. I’ve only visually tasted the stuff through Anthony Bourdain. To think I was paying money to taste chicken liver? Actually… on toast- it was rather delightful. With a dried cherry as well, the flavors were impressive.
But then there was the Porchetta Di Testa. I really wanted to like it. It was white and marbled with a little grey, see-through thin, like it might be expensive raw bacon? We gave it our best shot, like good little foodies- try everything once? The funny thing is, I just Googled it only to learn that it was a fragile serving of savory fat and pig head that we consumed. I cannot wait to tell Chris. It wasn’t my favorite, but I’m glad to have tried it, and to have it done well at Nostrana.
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We also enjoyed a salad bed of radicchio and parm with their house Caesar style dressing. I wanted to lick the plate but knew that would inappropriate.
To wash all this down, we enjoyed one of their Barberas. What a perfectly balanced wine. She called it bold, but not overly complex. It was a fabulous choice to cleanse us between each taste.
My entrée looked and smelled divine. It was a smoked chicken that was SO rich in flavor. I really couldn’t believe the smolder essence to it. I dove into it before I thought to take a photo, so the picture does not do their presentation justice. It was coupled with a pepper jelly and ricotta with garlic broccoli as the side kick.
Chris had the Tagliata, a Piedmontese (known for their unmatched tenderness) flat iron steak smoked on the same rotisserie as my chicken, to medium rare, a-bed arugula. Chris thought the rustic knife would be a nice touch for the photo.
The high-light of the evening was the dessert: a butterscotch pudding with salted caramel sauce on top. The salt factor was just enough to make you double take, but not enough to offend. An absolute winner. I would go back just for that!
The entire menu looked delish, but our little restaurant.com coupon did its job in what we tasted that night. I can see why their Executive Chef Cathy Whims has been nominated for the 2010’s James Beard Award. I didn’t want to leave, every mouth there was smiling in between bites. While I may make it sound fancy Italian, they have very reasonably priced pizzas and pastas as well. We plan to return… seeing that Nostrana is the best place we’ve eaten in Portland to date.