“What the Fearless Critic books and apps have that UrbanSpoon and Yelp don’t is a complete lack of bullshit.”
“I’ve spent years driving around with Zagat...but I think I’ll replace it with this Fearless Critic guide.”
–Leslie Brenner,
Dallas Morning News
Fearless Critic restaurant review
Italian, Pizza
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–2:00pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–10:00pm
Fri 11:30am–2:00pm
Fri 5:00pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–11:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–10:00pm

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


Southeast Portland
1401 SE Morrison St.
Portland, OR
(503) 234-2427
This classy Italian joint, Portland-style, is quietly serving some of the city’s best pizza

The inside of Nostrana feels sylvan, with slender panels of warm-hued wood reaching to the high ceilings and naked tables of dark wood filling the space. From many of these you can see an open kitchen with a glowing brick oven; dimly lit chandeliers look vaguely branchlike and cork floors help absorb sound. The whole look is surprisingly elegant for its modern-strip-mall surroundings (which you will curse if you choose to sit outside). While the vibe is definitely relaxed (sometimes too relaxed, where service is concerned), a night here feels like a special occasion.

The menu is laid out in an authentically Italian format–antipasti, primi, secondi—but there’s a recognizable Pacific Northwest presence throughout; you’ll find local cheeses, beets, and squash, mussel stew, and expertly grilled halibut. There’s a certain tongue-in-cheek downmarketing of the dish descriptions, like the “Caesar-style” dressing that adorns a lovely salad of radicchio, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and rosemary-and-sage croutons. This is Portland’s answer, perhaps, to the pretentious upscale Italian restaurants of the 1990s—a food-nerd restaurant positioning itself as something more, not less, accessible than it really is. How modern.

You should come ready to deal with some service hiccups—but they’re forgiven with your first taste of house-made charcuterie or one of the fleeting seasonal plates, like a small (and expensive) dish of chanterelle mushrooms prepared three ways. Aside from the stunning $60 fiorentina for two, meat-centered secondi like tagliata (sliced flatiron steak with arugula—an underrated prep) are surprisingly affordable.

But the star of the show here is the pizza. Where many places make a big deal about using a wood-fired (or, worse, “wood stone”) oven but don’t keep it hot enough to blister the crust, Nostrana’s pizza, made from naturally leavened dough, is closer to the gold Italian standard. A margherita is made properly, with spare discs of creamy, slightly briny house-made mozzarella and a fresh, vibrant tomato sauce.

Wines that have been “curated” (according to the list—okay, that’s a bit pretentious) are well chosen. This is one of the city’s best Italian wine lists, with unusually good representation of unsung regions like Valle d’Aosta, Trentino and Abruzzo; great breadth in Piedmont and Tuscany; and, in some cases, vintages going back to the mid-1990s. There’s also a restrained, somewhat perfunctory selection of Oregon’s greats.

This isn’t just a wonderful addition to Portland’s Italian-restaurant landscape; it’s one of the most exciting new kitchens in the entire city.

Comments (1)