Portland Restaurant Partners Provide Double Dose of Italy
(Portland, Oregon) - A slice of Italian café life is now on the corner of Southeast 29th and Belmont in Portland, Oregon, with Accanto, a casual Italian enoteca with an emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients and Italian cooking. Owned by the team re-opening the neighboring Genoa Restaurant, Accanto inhabits a formerly vacant space in the historic Genoa Building. Sitting virtually empty for the past two decades, the space received a complete renovation by a trio of Portland design and architecture firms eager to energize a quiet neighborhood corner.
The restaurant opened December 1, now offering visitors to this inner eastside neighborhood with a communal place to enjoy an espresso, a glass of wine or cocktails made with local spirits and a variety of small plates.
With Executive Chef David Anderson overseeing the kitchen, Accanto features many housemade ingredients – from spinach pasta and mozzarella to salumi and grissini. Offering small plate dishes for sharing and a few heartier entrees, Accanto’s menu will change with the seasons. Inspired by the many neighborhood enotecas he visited throughout Italy, Anderson wanted to create Portland’s version of a vibrant cafe where food and beverages are the highest quality. There is even a space in the rear of the cafe to find culinary resources – from magazines and cookbooks to news about local food and farm organizations.
Interested foodies can browse through the Genoa recipe archives from the past thirty-eight years.
With approximately 16 wines available by the glass, bottle or 500 ml carafe, Accanto’s wine list draws from Europe, as well as the Pacific NW and guests can also choose a bottle from Genoa’s extensive wine collection. The beverage list will feature cocktails made with spirits from local distillers and Italian producers along with local microbrews and coffee from locally owned World Cup Coffee. Along with Genoa, Accanto offers the Natura water purification system that eliminates the need for plastic or bottled water.
Some specialty cocktails include:
Bitter Bocaccio with Aperol, triple sec, lime juice, a splash of St. Germaine, lemon twist, served over ice.
Negroni Perfectus with Aviation Gin, Campari, Vya sweet and dry vermouth, and a burnt orange peel served up.
With the challenge of designing an entirely new bistro and bar concept, owner Trish Eiting chose a collaborative approach with three local design firms: Fix Studio, Siteworks and Works Partnership Architecture. Together, the team chose design elements that give the new neighborhood space a modern, yet playful design. With natural light flooding the corner space, Accanto is modeled after neighborhood bars in Europe where careful attention is given to both food and beverages. With an open kitchen design, Accanto invites guests to interact with the service and kitchen staff, encouraging the intimate and casual rapport found in small, neighborhood gathering spots.
Accanto’s design emphasizes the importance of sustainability and durability with many items built with materials that can be repaired rather than replaced. The bartop is milled from an Oregon walnut tree and still retains its “live edge” to give the space a rustic and informal centerpiece. Accanto is populated by tables fabricated in a local woodshop from end cuts of wood that would have otherwise gone to waste. Small steel tables in the back are also hand-made by a local artisan and the same steel details are incorporated into the base of the bar. Mouthblown glass pendant lights hang above the bar area and the slat ceiling, which partially exposes the building’s original wood beams, uses reclaimed fir wood. The bar chairs, handcrafted in Italy, use a sustainable fabric. Two vintage sofa frames by Russel Wright, a seminal American designer, are given new life with cushions made of natural latex foam. A variety of ottomans are covered with the same latex foam and eco fabric as the chairs with frames built from scrap pieces of plywood.
David Anderson’s commitment to food has always embodied whatever cuisine he immersed himself in – from Mediterranean to Indian. With a decade of cooking experience, Anderson, developed an affinity for learning as much about a cuisine as possible, with personal excursions to Mexico, Spain, India and Italy were he learned firsthand from chefs, artisan producers, and winemakers. With a degree from Western Culinary Institute Le Cordon Bleu in Portland, Oregon, Anderson added to his culinary resume by working at a number of notable Portland restaurants including Bluehour (where he did a six-week internship), Café Azul, Southpark Seafood Grill and Wine Bar, Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen and Vindalho.
A native of Ketchikan, Alaska, David Anderson, 31, started cooking right after school, spending a summer at an Alaskan fishing lodge. His first executive chef position was at Vindalho, which he helped to open in 2005, and which received accolades during his tenure including mention in Gourmet’s Restaurant issue, October 2007. The Oregonian’s Diner issue also named Vindalho a “Rising Star” of 2007. At Vindalho, Anderson taught cooking classes and prepared regional dinners featuring the techniques and recipes discovered along India’s spice route. Anderson was the chef de cuisine at Lauro Mediterranean Kitchen from 2003-2005 and assisted owner David Machado in the planning and opening of the new restaurant. During his tenure at Lauro, Anderson traveled to Italy and Spain to gather insight into Mediterranean cuisine. In 2004 Lauro Kitchen won “Restaurant of the Year” from Willamette Week.
He approaches cooking through the history and culture of a cuisine and then adds his own creative style. Anderson was the Iron Chef Portland winner in 2008 for the Children’s Relief Nursery and was also one of the national chefs selected by the Pear Commission for his award-winning pear recipe in Fall 2008.
Accanto is located at 2838 SE Belmont in the historic Genoa Building and will be open daily for casual European-style cuisine, a glass of wine or an espresso and dessert. For more information, call 503-235-4900. Accanto is open Sunday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. www.accantopdx.com