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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.8
9.0
$40
Italian
Casual restaurant

Hours
Sun–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri–Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm

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

www.fratellicucina.com

Pearl District
1230 NW Hoyt St.
Portland, OR
(503) 241-8800
Fratelli Cucina
The focus here might be on your date or the food, depending on the night

Fratelli has that cool, secretive thing going for it. Hidden on a side street, it’s only given away by its orange door and small sign. Inside that door is what might be one of the most romantic restaurants in Portland. You enter through a narrow, brightly colored hallway. If necessary, you can wait for a table in the small bar area, next to the open kitchen. In the bright light of an early summer evening, the dining room is fairly ordinary, but once it gets dark, it becomes much more dramatic. Weathered-looking concrete walls are softened by floor-to-ceiling drapes that also absorb the sound. Old wooden tables and chairs with well-placed area rugs add to the effect. Dim candle-lighting makes for a deeply intimate space.

The menu changes by season, making use of local produce wherever it can. But execution is less than consistent. Celeriac and potato gnocchi with blue cheese, pine nuts, and Napa cabbage, a dish no longer on the menu, has been heavy and comforting, if a notch too salty. Risotti are usually superb. One version had a bright, fresh basil flavor, just like a good pesto. On another night, it was an oven-baked prep with mascarpone cheese and deeply fragrant truffle oil, which we found really annoying.

Pastas are a mixed bag. On one visit, a special featuring delicate orecchiette and smoky, good pancetta was the best dish of the night. Another night, beef ravioli drowned in a very heavy, soupy sauce. The beef was odd-tasting and choked by a fair amount of connective tissue—virtually inedible. When filled with smoked chicken and goat cheese, however, the well-made ravioli worked beautifully.

Although good-quality local meats are used, they’re often overcooked, such as a Carlton Farms pork loin in an ineffectual pomegranate sauce. And while a duck with roasted rhubarb and black currant demi-glace had an interesting combination of flavors, it, too, was overdone. (At press time, neither duck nor pork were on the menu.)

Wines are interesting and very reasonably priced, highlighting various regions of Italy. Rare is the bottle over $40, and the staff is exceedingly knowledgeable about the choices. Desserts are as inconsistent as everything else.

We really want to like this place. It’s lovely, friendly, and the kitchen clearly cares about what it does. It’s just that the food won’t exactly steal focus from your date. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

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