Restaurant Reviews

Roustabout

Winterguide 2016 | view this story as a .pdf

La Dolce Bayside

Refined Italian classics return to the revitalized downtown end of Washington Avenue.

Restaurant-WG16Roustabout, in the heart of Portland’s burgeoning East End gentrification, is pretty much at capacity on our arrival on a weeknight at 7 p.m.

Seated, we marvel at the huge former Nissen Bakery–now a modern mix of silver and gold, with soaring white and gray walls, supported by proudly exposed steel I-beams, surmounted by all the things that used to be hidden: air ducts, plumbing, and electrical fixtures.

It’s loud and joyful here. We order an Old Fashioned, Frisco Style ($10)–rye, benedictine, and barrel bitters–selected from a cocktail list that runs from the classic Negroni ($9) to the East Bayside cocktail (vodka, fresh herbs, bubbles, $11).

The menu at first seems like a time warp: Caesar salad, spaghetti bolognese, chicken fra diavolo, minestrone, garlic bread. Our server explains that Roustabout’s gnocchi is Roman and therefore not what we may be expecting. Sure enough, a pair of four-inch squares of baked semolina (not little potato pillows) arrives, crisped and brushed with marinara and topped with fresh parsley, the culinary find of the night. And at $8, it will be a repeat performance.

Fritto Misto ($13), billed as an appetizer, is a heaping plate full of goodness. Octopus, calamari, mussels, and veggies are fried to golden brown in a light batter and accompanied by smoked-pepper aioli with just the right kick.

We’re drawn to Smoked Baby Backs ($20). Falling off the bones, the flavorful meat is infused with a smoky richness that carries over into the accompanying rigatoni.

We’ll return for the tiramisu ($10) made with “cold brew and Allen’s.” Happy hour runs from 4 to 6 p.m. (and 10 to midnight) with $3 beers, $5 cocktails, wines, and endearing surprises such as chicken liver mousse ($4) and house ricotta ($4). 

Roustabout, 59 Washington Ave., Portland Open Tues.-Fri., 11:30 p.m.-12 a.m., Sat.-Sun., 5 p.m.-12 a.m. with brunch 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 536-4008 or http://Roustabout.com

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