Now That’s Italian!

IMG_2741Early in 2011, Portland became all Francophiled, Little Bird, St. Jack, and Cocotte all bursting on the scene with great fanfare and popularity, different from the notable Portland French restaurants that came before them because they were reasonably affordable. Although we had a couple more French places come on the scene this year, the trend bursting forth at the end of 2011 appeared to be high end pizza, Via Tribunali and Oven and Shaker both opening their doors within a month of each other, both with wood fired ovens imported from Italy and small, authentic Italian pies (although Cathy Whim’s Oven & Shaker takes a more unconventional road with many of her toppings.)

When I heard about both places, I was really excited, as I’ve always wanted to bring quality pizza to our group, but never found the correct venue (although I’ve always wanted to try Lovely 50-50, they don’t do larger groups on the weekends.) In the beginning I wasn’t sure which of the two new places to select, so kept my ear to the ground and my eye to newsprint to see what people were saying about the two venues. Maybe because Oven & Shaker is in the Pearl and Via Tribunali is in Old Town, it seems like O&S originally was more talked about, and when I mention Via Tribunali, most people still don’t know what I’m referring to. As we had a great dinner at  Cathy Whim’s Nostrana, and a so-so dinner at 23Hoyt (Bruce Carey brought Via Tribunali to Portland) I originally gave O&S the advantage, as the space sounded fun and was supposed to have great cocktails, and Via Tribunali was an offshoot of a Seattle “chain.” Three people I know went to Oven & Shaker in the beginning though, and told me they didn’t really care for the pizza, so the advantage was back to VT, allegedly having wonderful pizza and packed since day one. Once I saw their extensive pizza menu, and learned they had a large communal table you could reserve any day of the week, off we headed to Via Tribunali (although we will probably still do Oven & Shaker some day, as they are supposed to have tasty things to eat besides just pizza.)