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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.9
8.5
$40
Italian, Modern
Casual restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 4:00pm–10:00pm
Fri–Sat 4:00pm–11:00pm
Sun 4:00pm–9:00pm

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

www.ginossellwood.com

Sellwood
8051 SE 13th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 233-4613
Gino’s
A cozy, kitschy neighborhood restaurant with heritage

Even though it’s only been around since 1996, Gino’s reminds us of the old-school Italian-American joints that have peppered New England and the tri-state for decades. The red-sauce, red-checkered-tablecloth look is endearing, but usually a sign that the most authentically Italian element you can expect to find will be on the wine list.

The craftsman feel of this cozy little joint really fits the Sellwood neighborhood. The old, ornate bar was salvaged by the owners from Back East—for a good story, ask about it. You could certainly bring a date here, but only if he or she appreciates florid kitsch.

Although this is a menu of American conceits like Caesar salad and cioppino, the former comes with a fearless load of garlic and the latter isn’t that far removed from seafood stews that vary regionally around the Mediterranean. This one is pleasantly surprising, less watery than some more mundane versions, loaded with seafood and saffron. We still prefer the more intense broth in a starter of mussels, which you will want to sop up with lots of extra bread.

Other dishes have even less to do with Italian cuisine, but are great in their own right. Dry-aged, free-range steaks are seasoned and cooked as well as they would be at a respectable steakhouse, and gleefully underpriced. Do take advantage. Sustainable fish are aptly paired with interesting flavors like a chutney of green olives, celery, and apples. Don’t miss “Grandma Jean’s,” a comforting stew of tomatoes, pork rib meat, beef, and pepperoni. It’s every bit as charming as a grandmotherly invention, and without any need for polite nods and tight-lipped smiles. Besides, when in Rome…

We appreciate the very thorough list of Italian wines—from the big regions like Piedmont and Tuscany, mostly—with low markups. Beers on tap cover all the niches from Guinness to Bud to local brews; and classic cocktails are done competently. In a refreshingly authentic move, Gino’s resists the urge to make a bitter negroni sweeter.

While Gino’s advertises itself with enough Italian words and sentiments about family history to make it seem legit, that’s not really the point; it finds plenty more legitimacy in making delicious the cuisine of Italian immigrants, tweaked and altered for the New World.

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