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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Thu 5:30pm–9:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:30pm–9:30pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines, outdoor dining, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


Southwest Portland
6440 SW Capitol Hwy.
Portland, OR
(503) 977-3045
Alba Osteria & Enoteca
A charming, romantic homage to all things Piedmontese

Alba Osteria, hidden away across the bridge in Hillsdale, is one of those places that you could drive past a million times and not notice. In a narrow building that is occupied on one end by Capitol Coffee House, this authentic Northern Italian restaurant is much more date-friendly than you might expect upon first glance.

Although you park rather unceremoniously in a gravel lot across the street, there are several nooks and crannies inside that allow for private, intimate conversations. Old wood floors, warmed by light spilling in through generous windows, are a charming and homey contrast to crisp white table linens.

The menu is divided, true to form, into antipasti, primi (usually pastas), and secondi (protein-centered plates), with selections rotating somewhat seasonally. You’ll start with good bread and recommendations by the knowledgeable staff, which manages to strike that sweet spot between available and hovering.

Of the antipasti, salads are just what you’d expect, nothing more, with top-quality greens and large portions; dressings are balanced but unexciting. Go for more interesting renditions, such as top-quality beef tartare. Classically prepared terrines of duck and pork have been served much too cold, muting their flavors. But the menu changes often enough that it’s always a new game.

Alba Osteria does make some of the best pasta we’ve had outside of Italy. Homemade maltagliati (which means “badly cut”—literally torn) melt in the mouth; agnolotti have paper-thin skin so that the fillings—such as veal, pork, and spinach—burst forth bite after bite; and tajarin, the souvenir pasta of the Langhe, is skillfully cut in long, thin strands. With seasonal porcini, morels, and spring onions, it is a revelation.

Secondi, on the other hand, are a bit of a mixed bag. Meats can be overcooked, but are usually well paired, if a little pricey for what they are. We’ve had a duck leg confit that was a total train wreck, dry and overcooked, then glazed with too-sweet honey and aged balsamic vinegar; but we’ve also had a fine, if underwhelming, halibut prep.

The all-Piedmontese wine list is commendable and fairly priced, but we wish there were more older-vintages, as many of these wines are drinking fine, but only at a fraction of their potential. In general, there’s a lot of care put into this place. Despite a few missteps, this is a memorable and worthwhile meal, with just the sort of vibe that will bring you back.

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