I don’t go to Paciarino that often. In fact, it seems like every time I do go, it’s been so long since I’ve been there that I actually don’t remember anything about my previous visit except that it was pretty good. It might be because I’m not the biggest Italian food fan. I tend to be very picky about my Italian, strongly preferring items with lots of meat, cheese, and vegetables. Pasta with just little meat sauce or even worse, no meat sauce at all, just doesn’t cut it. You want to warm my heart with Italian? Take your pasta, throw in pepperoni, sausage, chunks of mushrooms, tons of cheese, maybe a brownie, and a bunch of other delicious additions and then we can talk.
With all that in mind, it was time to head over to 470 Fore Street in the Old Port for another shot at Italian. I definitely remember thinking that Paciarino was a cut above what I generally was used to for Italian food. When we arrived, the pleasant memories came back. The warm quaint feel and somewhat rustic atmosphere was inviting and calming. The restaurant’s name means “cozy” and it fits well. With a service bar/station occupying the front center of the restaurant, the vast majority of the tables are situated beyond. We were immediately seated at a 4-top as there didn’t appear to be any tables for two available.
There wasn’t much of a time lapse between us sitting and a waitress approaching. We got some water and were given the specials which off the top of my head resembled mushroom ravioli and a lobster sauteé of some sort. They both sounded pretty good, but weren’t what I was looking for on that night. The waitress left and the search for the perfect meal was on. There were a few important notes on the menu that reminded me why I enjoyed Paciarino in the past – the pasta and sauces are made fresh every day, no preservatives are used, and the meat is all natural just like me.
Looking at the menu, I thought everything looked pretty good, but I was looking for the meal that would win me over – one I would not soon forget. The waitress had mentioned a couple items they were out of, but they weren’t anything we were considering. We discussed sharing the Caprese, but I decided against it on the basis that I’ve been eating a lot of tomatoes lately and was recently told that if I ate many more I’d turn into a tomato. While I hear women find high lycopene content attractive, that was something I didn’t want and left me considering a salad, crostini, or cheese selection. For my entree, I couldn’t get my eyes off the Lasagne Alla Bolognese with beef, pork, tomatoes, carrots, onion, and garlic. It was noted that the lasagna did not use ricotta, but instead was made with besciamella sauce as required by an authentic Bolognese recipe. My wife was playing “eeny meeny miny moe” to decide which ravioli she wanted.
The waitress came with bread chunks drizzled in special house olive oil and we gave her our orders. My wife ended up choosing the Italian Salad and I went with the Crostini All’Italiana as my starter after getting more details on the tapenades with which they were served. I stuck with the lasagna and Mrs. Portlandeater requested the Ravioli Ricotta E Spinaci Alla Bolognese – ricotta, spinach, garlic parm, nutmeg – once she verified it could be ordered with a meatless sauce. She threw in a glass of white wine for good measure.
Appetizers arrived faster than a speeding bullet. My crostini plate was colorful with five crispy bread slices and five different tapenades – onion, red pepper, olive, pesto, and eggplant. I tried them one by one. The onion was definitely the best. The red pepper and olive were very good too. I saved the pesto and eggplant for last because I wasn’t sure I’d like them. I tried the pesto. I’m not sure if I’m starting to like pesto or everywhere I go just makes it really well, but I must say that theirs was pretty good. Even the eggplant was good and I tend to always dislike eggplant. I was quite pleased overall. Anytime I can retry foods I usually don’t like and enjoy them, I know they’ve been done right. I tried my wife’s salad and it was as it looked – simple, fresh, and delicious.
We finished our apps, our plates were taken, and like clockwork, our main courses arrived. Her plate was equipped with fifteen ravioli. My lasagna was about 4″x6″ and an inch or so thick. It looked pretty standard, but I remembered it tasting quite good from the last time I was there. I dug in. I immediately picked up the besciamella sauce. It gave a rich, creamy taste. With the addiction of the cheese, meat, and vegetables, it was excellent. Paciarino definitely serves up a unique plate of lasagna, but they know what they are doing. Mrs. Portlandeater loved the ravioli, but I didn’t try them since they were made with spinach and I don’t like cooked greens.
My meal was completed devoured and she finished most of hers. They were great. Without a moment to spare, our plates were taken and we were brought our bill. I was a bit surprised that we were not offered anything further – dessert in particular. It was pretty clear that they were trying to clear tables to get other customers seated, but there were a couple empty tables that hadn’t been cleaned yet. It wasn’t a big deal; we weren’t hungry anymore, but I would think other customers might find it odd. The total with tax and tip came to $80 which included one wine, two apps, and two entrees. We were full, happy, and just a little rushed.
Paciarino makes food that is top notch and serves it in portions fit for a hungry guy like me. They also sell some items to go if you want to bring it home and heat it up. If you like Italian, this is definite must-try restaurant in Portland. While I don’t have vivid memories of my previous visits, I don’t ever remember getting anything that I didn’t like there and I wouldn’t anticipate that happening in in the future either. There’s also no waiting around as we were in and out in 50 minutes. Plan an hour to go there soon and you’ll likely end up singing “Come On, Get Happy” in Italian on your way out.
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