We were all glad to see the back of 2020, but it did happen to be a landmark year for Italians. Centuries-old wine windows, remnants from plagues past, were recommissioned in Florence to safely pass wine and Aperol spritzes through to customers. At long last, we were graced with an Italian hand gesture emoji. Your fact of the day: the gesture’s actual name is mano a borsa, or “purse hand.” Italian-American Queens Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande released their fire collaboration “Rain On Me.” And Portland welcomed not one, but *three* new Italian markets.
So without further ado, I am pleased to present The Battle of the Italian Markets *DING DING*. JK we’re all famiglia here, and I’m all about community over competition. This week, I ended up with two pompelmo—that’s grapefruit to you—centered drinks. It was an unintentional move, but what can I say? I like what I like. And despite their fruity foundations, the two cocktails were STRONG.
This one-stop shop in the Pearl has it all: in addition to stocking fresh produce from vendors Sauvie Island Growers and Sparrowhawk Farm, fresh flowers by Coy & Co., house made fresh and dry pasta, assorted dry goods, Tails and Trotters meats, and Pinolo Gelato, the market houses a pizzeria/pastaria/paninoteca (sandwich shop), a caffé, and a full bar.
Cocktail director and bar manager Joel Schmeck, formerly of Irving Street Kitchen (pour one out), roughly based his creations on Italian aperitifs and bitters. Anyone with a drinking buddy—or folx who are especially thirsty, no judgment here—might opt for the Milano Mule (vodka, CioCiaro amaro, lemon, Chinotto soda), which is the only cocktail that serves two.
When selecting a cocktail from Cooperativa’s lineup, I immediately gravitated towards the Sophia Loren (tequila, Campari, grapefruit, lime, ginger). The drink is described on the menu as “fresh, spicy, and exciting, just like Ms. Loren.” I must say, the Campari was indeed punchy in the cocktail. Which reminds me... I still need to watch The Life Ahead. Don’t call it a comeback, but her commanding performance generated Oscar buzz.
To line my stomach before subjecting it to tequila, I had a square-shaped slice of the cacio e pepe pizza. The deliciously cheesy flavors were identical to the pasta dish, but on a slice had the added bonus of being highly mobile. One detail I found quite thoughtful when ordering online was being given the option of getting my food hot or cold. Whether you want to scarf down your pizza immediately or reheat it later at home, Cooperativa has you covered.
As of this past weekend, Cooperativa is once again open for outdoor dining. Get a Negroni on tap to accompany some fresh, made to order pasta and grab some goodies for the rest of the week.
Be sure to save those bottles! Drink sustainably and return them for $1 off your next purchase.
Cooperativa, 1250 NW 9th Suite 100, (503) 342-7416, cooperativapdx.com
Stroll on into the market and two large grab-and-go cold cases will greet you with everything you need to piece together a custom Montelupo meal at home. One cooler is stocked with antipasti, soups, and take and bake pastas for two. The other houses cocktails and desserts like olive oil cake, budino, tiramisu, and Giulietti’s Italian Bakery Italian Flag—AKA Rainbow, AKA Tri-Color cookies.
Montelupo’s cocktail to-go program started out with the Italian standard Negroni, expanded with the addition of a Manhattan and Sazerac, and eventually worked up to a lineup of five drinks. All of the to-go libations hail from the existing cocktail menu created by bar manager Eddie Riddell (formerly of Trifecta Tavern, again, R.I.P.), which made it easier for the market to batch and bottle them. Co-owner Blake Kusler wanted to keep things simple, and while he notes that the cocktails are typically pre-dinner drinks, they are equally enjoyable with food.
A fun addition to the cocktail menu is the Cuban-born Hemingway daiquiri (Cruzan rum, Luxardo, grapefruit juice, lime juice, Peychaud’s bitters), loved by Ernest himself. I was slightly disappointed to not detect more of the Luxardo, a distillation of Marasca cherries. The liqueur is noted to have a bitter-dry taste instead of the signature sweetness of maraschino cherries, however, so my palate might just not be refined enough to differentiate it from the bitters.
Kusler’s attention to detail is notable— the bottled cocktails are pre-diluted with just a touch of water to mimic a bartender stirring and straining them, making them ready-to-serve when chilled. Even though they can be enjoyed straight out of the bottle, there’s also certainly the option to pour it over ice (or in my case blend it for a frozen daiquiri). After all, in the immortal words of OutKast, what’s cooler than being cool? ICE COLD.
The bottles might look small, but they actually contain “not quite two drinks, but a little more than one,” according to Kusler. Do with that information what you will!
Montelupo Italian Market, 344 NE 28th, (503) 719-5650, montelupo.co