Accanto Natalie Behring

Accanto


I’ve always loved Accanto. It’s one of my brunch besties—a place that takes reservations, but you can probably snag a table if you’re being impulsive. It’s also always punched up a few levels, serving great Italian at fairly reasonable prices.

Meant to be a sister to the fancier Genoa restaurant, it’s Accanto that’s survived—and thrived. As Chris Frazier moved to Renata, the stars aligned and the team behind the wonderful Taylor Railworks (RIP), chef Erik Van Kley and front-of-house star Gabriela Ramos, were available to take over this Southeast Belmont kitchen.

Van Kley, who was also a long-time sous-chef at Le Pigeon, has turned over the entire menu, save the beloved tagliatelle. And while I hate to blow up my spot, it’s really fucking good.

Try the hand-rolled stozzapreti pasta ($19), laid over swirls of rich sheep’s milk ricotta, and topped with roasted lamb, tender asparagus, and green garlic, with generous shreds of pecorino and pops of orange, purple, and yellow edible flowers. It’s spring on a plate, in all its optimistic glory.

Accanto Natalie Behring

A side of black trumpet and yellowfoot mushrooms ($12) could nearly be an entrée unto itself, served over polenta and topped with a sunny-side egg, all richness and comfort. And because this is Van Kley we’re talking about, there’s foie gras in all its glory, this time served up as about the richest pastrami imaginable, ready to spread on rye toasts ($19).

At brunch, there’s an amaro French toast ($11) that sounds like it has too much going on—five spice apples, aged balsamic, and whipped mascarpone—until you take a bite and realize there’s no reason breakfast sweet dishes have to be cloying. But the real star is an ingenious BRUNCH PASTA. Perfectly al dente bucatini noodles are whipped with egg and pancetta to make a glorious carbonara, which is then topped with a breaded and deep-fried poached egg. This egg *will* spurt out its yolky cache upon a prod from a fork, and ooze into the hollow centers of the bucatini noodle. You will squeal with delight and forget why we ever needed hash browns.

At any point, feel free to ask Ramos which amaro or sherry to try; her expertise in the stuff is one of the best in town. I’ve always loved Accanto—now it’s just a deeper kind of feels.

DOC


Not gonna lie: For years, all I knew about DOC was that it was real expensive. Now in its 10th year, DOC, a nook of a restaurant with an open kitchen front-and-center as you enter, has a new chef and wine director.

It seems that the revamp is just the call restaurateur Dayna McErlean (who also owns nearby Nonna Tavern and Yakuza) needed to make. They’ve dropped the price on the six-course prix fixe dinner from $85 to $65, and it’s a spread worth investing in, particularly with wine pairings ($60 with the six course; $40 for three course—you can also split the pairings if you want to drive home safely).

We stopped in late last month and did a full six course parade, splitting 12 dishes between two people. It’s special event dining, as wine director Brandon Smith (Ava Gene’s, Café Castagna) plucks bottles of natural Italian wines that perfectly pop with the seasonal spread. I fell hard for halibut with morels, snap peas, crispy smashed potatoes, and nasturtium ($31 à la carte), and the Skerk Vitovska wine.

A few plates needed more oomph, in particular a salad of foraged lettuces that got a bit too densely herbal. But looking back a few weeks later, I’m still drooling over a chewy cavatelli pasta ($19 à la carte) with lobster. The secret was in the tomato sauce, spiked with just enough chile to give it kick, but not enough to deter anyone spice averse. Good lord that is some dame fine pasta.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I stayed away from DOC for so long. But with options like a $35 Sunday supper, à la carte ordering during the week, and one of the most interesting wine lists out there right now, I’ll be back.

Renata


Oh boy. When Renata opened, it was under massive hype and expectation, having been named the Oregonian’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year mere weeks after opening. In those first few months, I wasn’t totally enamored with the high-end Inner Eastside venture.

But over the next two years, chef Matt Sigler tweaked the so-so wood-fired pizzas and made it a destination-worthy spot, especially for those $7 margheritas during happy hour. Renata settled into a more comfortable groove, and the crowds stayed consistent. I went back a few times, but never counted it as a top recommendation to anyone who asks.

In December, Sigler decamped less than a month after former Accanto chef Chris Frazier joined as chef de cuisine. Frazier, who killed it at Accanto, left us a bit cold during our April visit. After splitting five dishes, my main feeling upon leaving was... oily. A casoncelli pasta ($21) stuffed with lamb had what tasted like a broken butter-based sauce, which was a big let down considering noodles was where Renata used to shine. A aglio verde pizza ($20), with smoked mozzarella, green garlic, and Sicilian olives was one-note of creaminess, although that crust is top notch, and a side of Brussels sprouts with lardons ($8) was forgettable.

However, a fat pork chop cooked in the open hearth and resting in a rhubarb jus ($21) was a bone-in delight—the fat charred by the flames, and the acid and bitterness from the rhubarb lifting the plate out of being too heavy. That being said, their outdoor space is one of the best places to grab an Aperol spritz and chill, so expect to see me whiling away a sunny Sunday there soon, pizza in hand.