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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Portland
Food
Feel
Price
7.0
7.5
$60
Italian
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Mon–Thu 6:30am–10:30am
Mon–Thu 11:30am–2:30pm
Mon–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri 6:30am–10:30am
Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 7:30am–11:30am
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 8:00am–2:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–9:00pm

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

www.nelcentro.com

Downtown
Hotel Modera 1408 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR
(503) 484-1099
Nel Centro
A few moments make this hotel restaurant stand out from all the others

The newest child of the Vindalho-Lauro Kitchen family, Nel Centro is an ambitious attempt at authentic Italian food: homemade pasta, Euro style, beautiful courtyard.

There’s something about each member of this restaurant group that feels studied, a touch obsequious. In many other cities this would just be good business, but in Portland, this soundness is undermined by the risk taking, passion, and intense focus of our best restaurants. Next to something audacious like Pok Pok or Beast, these ventures seem sort of...cynical.

Of course, good business means procuring talent: the excellent breads, pastas, and desserts are made by a Pearl Bakery veteran, and they’re the best performers here; the wine program works academically and practically at all price points, with little underachievement; there’s a small but ample selection of microbrews on draft and a few of the world’s better bottles. Cocktails remain a weakness for this clutch of establishments: some dress as classics but are reluctant to cast off the reliable wardrobe of the –tini age.

Some hesitation is apparent even in the color scheme of the restaurant where various shapes and colors of blown-glass lamps (a proven crowd pleaser since the 1990s) offset a primarily brown palette: brown booths, brown carpet, brown ceiling, brown pillars, and, yes, brown art. The patio of fire pits in the Hotel Modera courtyard is very nice, but at no time do you ever forget you’re in a hotel restaurant.

We’ve been dazzled by a salad of raw zucchini and shaved carpaccio with fresh mint shining through. Bucatini have come perfectly al dente, with a well-developed tomato sauce and deep, rich lamb meatballs. A roast pork sandwich, however, is dry and lacking good pork-fat flavor, and relies heavily upon an overly sweet marmalade. Proteins like grilled wild salmon, braised beef, and rotisserie chicken are generally expertly cooked, but elements of each dish have come oversalted to the point of inedibility. Pizza is not great, with a spurious, pasty crust the color of uncooked dough: what’s that visible brick oven being used for?

Desserts are more consistent; it would be criminal to miss an exemplary Scharffen Berger soufflé or a lavender-scented crème brûlée brilliantly complemented by pistachio macaroons. In the end, though, our panel is split on Nel Centro—probably because the restaurant is so unpredictable.

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