When the owners of the highly regarded Central Provisions decided to start a new restaurant named Tipo on Ocean Ave., it seemed like a no-brainer that I should visit when it opened. After a wait that seemed much longer than it actually was, their sophomore eatery first unlocked the doors a couple weeks ago. I didn’t find a website for the place until the day before we went, and to be honest, when I finally could view a sample menu, it didn’t look that great to me. However, I had the sense to give them a fair shot, knowing the quality of their first restaurant quite well.
The parking lot was full, so my wife dropped me off in front so I could claim our reservation while she found a space. I checked in and the chatty, ultra-friendly hostess pointed out the table we would be sitting at. Our seats were at the end of a larger table where the chef’s family was sitting. I felt a little special to be seated among such important company. When my wife made her grand entrance, we sat and started looking at the menu. One side was food and the other was beverage.
We stuck with waters to drink, though we requested lemons to go with them. The waitress informed us that the plates were small and came out as they were ready, so we would probably want to try a few each. Mrs. Portlandeater seemed to know exactly what she wanted to order pretty quickly, but I didn’t see much that really got me excited, though there were a few plates that I found mildly intriguing. I told her to hang on to her hat and when I finally picked three or four items that I might want to order, we started a discussion about which ones we could agree to share.
Skipping past the raw section of the menu, we went straight for the plates, pasta, and pizza. I suggested we try the Black Pepper Taglietelle – brodo, parmigiano reggiano. She agreed and then recommended we order the Vinegar Pepper Chicken – pickled peppers, creamy polenta, coriander. Next, we decided on the Margherita Pizza – fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive oil – and Cauliflower and Mushroom Pizza – ricotta, thyme, saba, crispy garlic. We stopped at that and put in the order with our waitress, though I seriously considered also ordering the Fried Smelts. I hadn’t had smelts since I was a mini foodie, but I remember them being tasty. However, I was confident we had already ordered enough for a meal without them.
Before any of our food came out, we received some house made foccacia. It was topped with seasoning and oil. One bite revealed some of the best I’d ever had. Among the outstanding enhancements to the beautiful bread were a sprinkling of red pepper flakes to give it a little punch. It was excellent and made me very hopeful that our orders would similarly impress. As we finished that, the tagliatelle arrived. It appeared to be woven as though someone was attempting to knit a sock with it. Topped with cheese and sitting in the broth/brodo, a small taste brought forth immense flavor. The brodo was stellar and the pasta perfectly firm. It was outstanding.
After happily finishing the pasta, we received the chicken. A couple pieces of thigh sat in the polenta. My wife and I each grabbed one to put in the small plates we were given. I shredded a forkful and it was tender and well rubbed with seasoning. Then I tried the polenta which was shockingly good. As someone who’s not normally a fan of cornmeal concoction, I found it to be polent-y good and it was the peppers, at least partially, which made it a real stunner. I loved the acidity of it and the creation as a whole was somewhat unique. I found it to be a hearty dish, but because it wasn’t very large, it had an appetizer feel.
There were some pizzas being eaten next to us and they were getting rave reviews, so when our margherita came out, I was excited to try it. The execution was pure and held to tradition. The sauce was a tad sweet, the cheese appointment modest, and the basil beautifully fresh and pungent.The crust was also pleasant. Margherita pizza is not my favorite, but this was certainly a well put together version of the old standard. I ate a fair amount before our other pie showed up.
Our second pizza was somewhat heavily topped with the goods. There were plenty of the veggies including crunchy cauli. What really made the pizza a winner though was the saba. The main ingredient in balsamic vinegar, the grape must reduction jazzed up the veggie and cheese saucer taking it to another level of awesome. I love mushroom pizza, but this one, with the other additions, was a much elevated version. I ate a significant portion of it, enjoying each of the ingredients which added their own personality to the pie. As we were winding down, we had to make space on the table for someone who was eating solo. That made the meal a little less intimate, but it wasn’t a big deal. We engaged in small talk and he seemed excited to experience the restaurant for the first time too.
I stopped eating eventually, but only because we were going to the movies and I wanted to watch Split instead of that being what my pants were doing. Our newly acquired counterpart started eating the smelts that had previously gotten my attention. There were quite a few in his order and he verified that they were excellent which means that if they’re available next time I’m there, I’ll be ordering them up with the quickness. We got a box for our remaining pizza, settled our tab, and made our way to the theater as a couple of well fed commoners.
Tipo turned out to be great. Our meal came to about $50 before tip which felt like a solid value. The food was really good, but also slightly different than what is being offered in the Portland area which makes them an easy choice for an occasional visit. They’re carving out a space in the Italian food market, but since it’s outside the standard lasagna and linguine fare, it doesn’t immediately feel so confined to what you would normally expect from that type of restaurant. It’s true that there are more of those around here than there used to be, but Tipo’s style is all it’s own. I’ll be back and likely on a day not that far away from today.
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