Restaurant Review: Pastini Pastaria Redux

We reviewed Pastini about two years ago when I first started this blog, and it was kind of a disaster. I was just now writing an email to someone where I told them about how I hate giving bad reviews. I just naturally want everyone to do well. At the same time, when we have a bad experience at a restaurant, we have to be honest, and I try to make sure that I am specific about what went wrong with the hope that the owner will be able to fix it. Although I doubt that I can claim credit for the improvements at Pastini since we last visited, they definitely took care of my two main complaints.

Gluten Free Flag at Pastini Pastaria

When you get a plate of gluten-free pasta at Pastini Pastaria, they bring it out with a little flag to mark that it’s gluten-free. That’s awesome! That way everyone knows that it’s gluten free and you won’t end up with food getting mixed up, or bread being added to the dish. Our other main complaint with the restaurant in our last review was that the pasta had been overcooked. They definitely solved that problem as well. Another score.

Pastini Pastaria cocktail

In case you’ve missed Pastini, they are an Italian restaurant chain based in Portland. They have four locations in Portland, and a location in each of: Beaverton, Tigard, Bend, and Corvallis. We went to the Pastini on NE Broadway near 14th. Check here for a map of locations. Here is their gluten-free “menu,” which is more like a page that talks about their gluten free pasta and Tiramisu.

The restaurant is popular. We went there with our friends, who go there a lot. Pastini has a lot going for it. It’s a little family, a little upscale, and a little casual. They have a full bar. It’s got a happy energy. It’s a popular place so there’s usually a little wait before you get seated.

Pastini Gluten Free Ziti

Sienna got the Capellini Primavera, which is a simple dish with zucchini, mushrooms, sweet peas, roasted peppers, broccolini, fresh basil and garlic. She got it with gluten-free Ziti pasta and had them add chicken.

Pastini Gluten-free spagetti

I decided to get the gluten-free Spaghetti with Marinara, which is my all-around favorite way to eat pasta. Our friends got the Ziti Vegetariano, which is pasta with zucchini, tomatoes and yellow squash tossed with olive oil, garlic, tomato pesto, fresh herbs, and Kalamata olives. All of our dishes were delicious. The pasta was cooked just right, and the sauces were rich and flavorful.

Our waiter was very helpful and knowledgeable. As we mentioned in our past review, Pastini takes basic steps to prevent cross-contamination, like boiling the gluten-free pasta in different water. Our dishes came out in a reasonable amount of time and everything was the right temperature. Now I just need to talk them into making the meatballs gluten-free!

We didn’t sample the gluten-free Tiramisu, but our waiter told us that it’s a very popular item. I, for one, love and miss Tiramisu, so it’s only a matter of time before we give it a try. But we had other dessert plans that night. For the vegetarians and vegans out there, you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of vegetarian options, and the menu is also rather vegan-friendly.

We’ll have to go back sometime soon to solidify our feelings about Pastini, but this visit left us with a much more positive feeling about the place.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Pastini Pastaria
www.pastini.com
Multiple Locations

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free Italian restaurant in town? Have you been to Pastini Pastaria? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Iorio Italian

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.

Lots of atmosphere at Iorio

Lots of atmosphere at Iorio

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.

Horay! Calamari!

Horay! Calamari!

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.

Iorio Fresine

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.

Wow wow wow

Wow wow wow

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.

Iorio
912 SE Hawthorne Blvd.
Portland, Oregon 97214