Portland Food: Nostrana

Saturday night J and I went to a marvelous restaurant called Nostrana. Owner and chef Cathy Whims was a 2012 James Beard finalist for Best Chef NW and is known for her authentic Italian cuisine.  

The restaurant is a large open space with floor to ceiling shelving behind the bar housing liquors from around the world and an open kitchen fronted with an enormous brick oven. One of the house specialties is Sicilian pizzas cooked in the oven and served the Sicilian way—with scissors for cutting into the crispy thin crust. I didn’t opt for a pizza but saw several heading out to tables and they looked amazing. We decided we’d have to come back for lunch before the tomatoes go out of season.


The meal was a generous gift from my brother and sister-in-law to J for his birthday. On the drive to the restaurant he asked if I’d brought my wallet as he wasn’t using his gift certificate to pay for my meal. He’s a charmer, yes? 

I started with an unusual salad of greens and heirloom tomatoes on top of a poblano chile sformato. No idea what that is? Neither did I but it sounded it good and it was. Basically, a sformato is like a soufflĂ©. So this was a light eggy warm concoction with the gentle heat of poblano chiles throughout. It melted in my mouth. 

For my entrĂ©e, I stuck with a classic—roasted chicken and creamy polenta. J had fresh cut fettucine with bay scallops, baby spinach and spec (a cured pork product). Both were wonderful- my chicken crispy and smoky on the outside and tender inside. It was served with a romesco sauce and that was another new item for me. It is ground nuts and smoked peppers so very earthy but with a soft heat. It paired perfectly with the chicken. 


And, of course, we couldn’t leave without dessert, which was another huge success. A butterscotch budino with a salted caramel topping. Budino is an Italian custard so don’t even start thinking about the calorie count. It was insanely delicious. The custard was on the bottom so you cut through the salted caramel and if you did it properly got a spoonful of sweet creamy deliciousness cut with salt and the burnt tang of caramel. Even J got into the action and he is not a dessert person. This was one of my favorites.
Heaven on earth. The top is not whipped cream but marscapone cheese which has a yogurt-like tang. The combination of all these flavors was spectacular.
So, another lovely Portland evening. We’re still in daylight at 8pm but it’s fading fast and the nights are getting chilly. One of my favorite times of year. Celebrating it with a sublime meal only makes it better!