Iorio is an upscale Southern Italian Restaurant on the 900 block of SE Hawthorne. In addition to winning the Portland CitySearch Best Italian Restaurant award for 2008, they are “committed to providing sustainable local and organic” food and will accommodate any dietary restrictions. For gluten-free folks and people with celiac disease, they have a number of nice options, and can modify some of the items on their menu to suit. In the case of the pastas and gnocchi, they ask that you call one day ahead.
We were a little nervous when we arrived at the restaurant, because it was basically empty. However, by the time we got our entrees the restaurant had begun to fill up. The restaurant is upscale and a larger than usual number of people were dressed up (for Portland, that is.) Our waiter was knowledgeable and also asked the chef some questions for us.
One thing that we got excited about immediately is that their award-winning calamari can be prepared gluten-free, so we ordered that, and it was delicious! Calamari was one of the things that I had recently figured I wouldn’t be eating again any time soon, so it was a nice treat.
We also got the Caesar Salad, which they serve with whole leaves. This turned out to be disappointing. It needed pepper, lemon juice, anchovies, and croutons. The calamari was so good we found ourselves surprised at the Caesar Salad.
Next came the gluten-free gnocchi and fresine pasta. The fresine is made with fresh pasta and a red sauce and can be ordered with either meatballs or sausage. The gnocchi is served with pesto. The best item from either dish was the meatballs. They were outstanding. Next, I would say the fresh pasta was good. It was a little inconsistent somehow, but ended up being way better than the standard rice noodles you can get at the store. The tomato sauce, however, was disappointing. It was sweet and sort of flavorless. Even worse were the gnocchi. They were so salty that we couldn’t taste the pesto. It was like eating the dead sea salty. I can only imagine that it was that bad by some fluke.
Last, they had a gluten-free chocolate flourless cake with a scoop of vanilla gelato and raspberry sauce. The presentation was delightful and the cake was warm like it had been cooked especially for us. It was really amazing. Like really really mindblowingly amazing.
All of which left us scratching our heads that a restaurant could be so good and yet so bad at the same time. On the plus side, they have gluten-free versions of some exciting dishes. Here’s how we scored everything:
Calamari – 5 out of 5
Gnocchi – 1 out of 5
Meatballs – 5 out of 5
Gluten-free pasta – 3 out of 5
Red Sauce – 2 out of 5
Caesar Salad – 1 out of 5
Chocolate cake – 5 out of 5
Later note: It seems like the service there is spotty, so we’ve downgraded their rating.
Times we have visited: 4 (So we feel pretty good about this rating.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price. Most dishes are around $18.
912 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97214