The heart of Portland?s culinary scene beats so loud, it?s practically palpable. It seems as if every local publication, both print and web, is pulsing with articles about the city?s newest restaurant, newest chef, old chefs opening new restaurants, old restaurants with new chefs, and old restaurants that eventually succumb to the fickleness of their once-upon-a-time patrons.
And yet, spattered all across the foodie town, lie time-honored restaurants, often passed over in search of the next ?it? place. When we speak about Portland classics, the places that still hum steadily along well after the surge?of new hot spots, there?are a handful of?places that create the cadence of the city; we pay homage to our standards.
Located in the center of the downtown Portland?s Cultural District, on the ground floor of the ultra chic Hotel Modera is one of those classics. You?ll find the classy yett casual Nel Centro (pronounced chen-tro) nestled between the Keller Theater and Schnitzer Auditorium. Favored by customers from the financial and performing arts districts, and those in search of a sunny and comfortable patio, Nel Centro has been locally owned and operated since 2009.
Owner Dave Machado (also owner of Altabira in the Hotel Eastlund) brought in Chef John Eisenhart (formerly of Pazzo) in early 2015 to freshen up the menu, focusing on Northern Italian and Southern French Riviera fare. With all housemade pasta, and dishes that are simple yet showcase seasonal flavors, you?ll find them as tasty as they are visually appealing, without being overly fussy.
Dishes like Duck Leg Confit with Kumquat Gastrique will make you swoon. A few bites of the Pappardelle with Braised Lamb Shoulder and Smoked Pecorino and your eyes might start rolling back into your head. And the Lamb Shank with Couscous, Asparagus and Parmigiano Reggiano falls right off the bone and directly?into your mouth. Where it should be.
The cocktail program, created by Bar Manager Nathanial Stout, is inspired by the Cultural Arts program with drinks designed specifically for whatever happens to be playing at the time. Sip a sultry cocktail for Carmen, or enjoy something light and uplifting for The Magic Flute. The Ol? Man River is a showboat of an Old Fashioned, with local Burnside Bourbon, Calisaya (crafted in Salem) and bitters.
Wine Director, David Holstrom (aka ?Guy du Vin?) curates a thoughtful and expansive wine list from Italy, France, and the Pacific Northwest. There are eight rotating beers/cider on tap (all local micro brews) and a succinct bottle list that will capture maintain your attention.
With a generous Happy Hour, extensive breakfast, lunch, dinner menus, you’re sure to fall in love with Nel Centro all over again.
Here’s what other local voices are saying about Nel Centro: