March 2010


The Gritty And The Glory

In about the first three months of the beginnings of Restaurant Roulette, 3.75 years ago, I took some of my earliest diners to Ciao Vito, one of my top five restaurants at that time. It’s amazing how things have changed in Portland dining during that time frame, especially the explosion of wonderful, interesting restaurants in P.Town. Nowadays, I don’t think I could even name a top five, there are just too many options. I might be able to manage a top ten, but even in that case, I probably would not be able to rate them within the top ten.

Portland, and myself, have gotten a great deal more sophisticated since this group began, and occasionally when I return to an old favorite, I find it dated or faded.IMG_1444 Always sad. Over the last few months I’ve been debating over at least three quality Italian restaurants, all of which I and other group members have been to, deciding which I would insert into the roster in early 2010. Naturally, I went with my heart and selected Ciao Vito, my favorite of the lot. When perusing C.V.s on-line menu to type up the RSVP for the last dinner, I must admit I had a couple of moments of hesitation, though, as it seemed like almost the exact same menu as the last time I ate there (with the exception of missing Razor Clams and Smoked Duck Legs, two of their early signature dishes.) I worried and fretted a tad, has Ciao Vito become dated, is it coasting on its Alberta Street location?

After our recent dinner at Ciao Vito, I would say that Ciao Vito has done a good job keeping things fresh.IMG_1451 As is the case with many restaurants, the main thing that seems dated is their on-line menu, they actually had a good variety of old standards and new, interesting items to try on our visit, and the restaurant itself seems to change very little over time. This includes the very competent but somewhat “removed” wait staff, always a bit formal and perhaps, on occasion, snooty (this is something I have read numerous times, but not experienced) the lovely, dark decor (I finally got to sit at that fun table under the big chandelier!) and the fact that while many entree prices fall within the arena of modest, starters and drinks are getting mighty spendy, like many, many of the good places around town. (more…)


With Eight You Get Really Ill And Want To Die!

Let me just start this latest exodus off by saying that yes, a few hours after our dinner at Cabezon, I got violently, incredibly ill, ill is ways that most people would associate with bad food, or unclean conditions, or something equally nasty and unsavory. But was it Cabezon?IMG_1431 I just don’t know, so I won’t point any fingers, or any other shaky appendages, and was I to guess based on food quality and seeming freshness, I would guess no. Also, there was nothing I consumed that others didn’t also consume, there was a great deal of repetition of ordering and sharing of food at this dinner, and although I never heard back from one attendee, everyone else let me know they felt hunky dory later, if not better than usual, as seafood can seem less gut-wrenching than many other heavy duty meals. So if I got sick from some interaction at Cabezon, it must have been a fluke, Ebola on my fork or Typhoid in my wineglass, and I would certainly return to Cabezon without qualms (although they might not want me back if they see the headline on this entry.) But you know me, I’m into those headlines with immediate impact!!!!

If you want a gigantic menu of fresh seafood specials and a fancy red flocked dining room, better go somewhere else like Jake’s. Although Cabezon is plenty pleasant, and perfectly tasteful, the menu is relatively small, with quite a few starters but a moderate amount of entrees, and maybe one special in each category each night. Supposedly the menu changes on a daily basis (now that would be a real pain) but certain items appear as regulars, items like the house pate, Mac n’ Cheese, and the Cioppino. (more…)