You will undoubtedly feel like a guest in an Italian family home at Enzo’s Caffe Italiano, whether you are dining outdoors in their intimate patio or inside the cozy dining room.
Location: 25259 NE Alberta Street, Portland, Oregon
Traditional Italian fare in the style of the Puglia region is food served from Enzo’s heart. He uses time-honored family recipes that have been handed down for generations.
As Enzo likes to say, “Mangi, mangi e divertiti! Eat, eat, and enjoy!”
Menu: The menu, presented in Italian, lists all the ingredients in English, so it is effortless to order.
Insalata (salads) are made with very fresh and creamy cheeses, tomatoes, mixed greens, and even a combination of fresh mussels, garbanzo beans, garlic, and cherry tomatoes.
Primi, the first course, includes various meats, sausage, red sauces, vegetables, spices, cheeses, and mushrooms. They are served on homemade, fresh pasta like rigatoni, linguine, spaghetti, fettucini, orecchiette, and lasagna.
Enzo also serves seafood in a white wine sauce and fresh-caught fish of the day wrapped in foil.
Secondi, the second course, includes some heavier meats either slow-cooked or roasted over an open fire.
Seven different kinds of Pizza (from Margherita, Genovese, Cinque Terre, Giardino, Campagnolo, or Americana) include fresh mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes, fresh basil, artichokes, prosciutto, arugula, eggplant, mushrooms, or pepperoni. The Paese é Citta has fresh rosemary, red onion, garlic, potatoes, and mozzarella fresca.
Dolce (desserts) include Tiramisu using the Lanzadoro family recipe. Cannoli, made with Sicilian fresh ricotta cream, orange zest, vanilla, dark chocolate, and imported amarena cherry, is an option. And, of course, you can select from three flavors of Gelati.
Thoughts: The Southern Italy style of food, festive atmosphere, and our delightful waiter, Sandro, made for an enjoyable and delicious evening. We were seated in the dining room at a long table, just like we would be in an Italian home.
The giant picture window was open to the patio, a cleverly-designed platform at the curb that took up a parking space on the street. Surrounded by a wrought iron fence covered with flower-filled pots, vines, and a couple of trees, it held a handful of small tables for two or four people. That created an intimate atmosphere reminiscent of a café in Italy.
Sandro offered family-style dining to our group, which is typical in Italy. Our large party, however, wanted to order individually from the menu. We did manage to sample each other’s selections during the evening.
With food made from scratch every day, many tempting dishes were discussed over the Extra Dry Prosecco served before our meal. There are a few members of our party that prefer sweeter sparkling wines, and Sandro graciously presented another choice that was promptly approved and poured.
For those who were ordering wine with dinner, a wine tasting helped us select our favorite, and we enjoyed wine by the glass with our meal. Countless bottles and a wide selection of wines line the shelves around the restaurant.
Note that Enzo’s offers a wine tasting every afternoon with three to five wines, fresh Puglia-style bread, and olive oil.
We ordered in the American way – either from the Primi menu or the Secondi menu for our entrée. The portions were large enough to be a complete entrée from either section.
After we placed our order, baskets with large chunks of Puglia-style bread arrived at our table with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
The Caprese Salad, one of my all-time Italian favorites, is made with fresh basil, mozzarella, tomatoes, green olives, and spices. Presented on colorful turquoise plates, it contrasted with the vibrant fresh veggies artfully displayed. The brilliant splash of color and design that it brings to the table is replicated in the accent color on the walls.
Pappardelle Con Funghi was my choice of entrée. I savored the first taste of the luscious and delicate cream sauce on my tongue. The crisp asparagus was perfectly steamed and not limp. While you can add chicken or sausage to this dish, I didn’t feel it was necessary. I relished every bite of this Italian meal.
Because both of these dishes were so filling, I didn’t have any Dolce to end the meal. I’ll start with that on my next visit.
I took Enzo’s advice. I ate, ate and enjoyed!
Price Range: Insalatas are $16-18, the Primi course ranges from $18-26, the Secondi course ranges from $22-32.