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Dallas Morning News
Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Tue–Sat 5:00pm–9:00pm

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


912 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, OR
(503) 445-4716
Italian with heart and a commitment to all things local

Iorio, so named after the matriach of this family, is a self-described “southern Italian” restaurant. We’re not fans of this habit of dividing Italy along north/south lines; many people seem to be under the impression that red-sauce Italian-American (e.g. spaghetti and meatballs) is Southern Italian—it’s not—or that Italian protein mains like saucy veal chops are Northern Italian—they’re not.

Regardless, this is a warm, romantic eatery, not such a far cry from what you’d find in Italy today (north or south!), that serves simple, yet elegantly prepared fare. Iorio is not out to impress with esoteric design; rather, it allows the food to take center stage. Red walls and artwork create a cozy, enveloped feeling, while a bar in the back offers a slightly less formal seating option. The dining room only has 12 tables, so make sure to have a reservation in place. And Iorio herself? Her wedding photos are displayed in an alcove.

Service is attentive and friendly—it’s not uncommon to see the chef making the rounds to ensure that everything was satisfactory. Wine offerings are reasonably priced, but it’s not an extensive list. That said, we must applaud them for their focus on Willamette Valley wines from Portland’s backyard.

Despite the restaurant’s proclaimed vegetarian friendliness, the offerings tend toward meats and cream sauces, as in a recent soup of the day: cream of Brussels sprouts. In general, the menu tends towards heavy foods, such as a hearty and generous lamb ragout.

Calamari (billed as “wild-caught”) are unspectacular, their preserved-lemon aïoli not quite living up to its promise in prose. A recent fish-of-the-day prep was delicate cod, richly sauced, yet not overpowering. This we give a thumbs up. We like the generous cheese plate, which comes with delicious fruit condiments. But thumbs down to focaccia, which is dry, disappointing, and processed-tasting, like what you find at an airport café. Its accompanying pumpkin butternut squash spread is inventive, but not enough to save it.

Iorio does make accomodations for gluten-free diets, and what they call “age appropriate” requests (Get your NC-17 food here! It’s barely legal...). Prices are a bit high for this part of Portland, but they’re still reasonable. Buon appetito.

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