Caro Amico Italian Cafe
Needing a break from the OHSU cafeteria, I used my Urban Spoon iPhone app to search for an interesting nearby restaurant for dinner last Saturday. Caro Amico, just minutes down the hill near the tram, had excellent reviews so we decided to give it a try.
What a find! Normally, I would have chosen to eat on the deck, but I was out-voted by my dad and brother. (It was getting a little chilly!) so we ended up in a comfy window booth in the dining room.
One of the first things I notice about a restaurant is the quality of the bread, if they serve bread as an appetizer. I admit that I'm a bread snob. The bread basket is like a party invitation; it sets the tone for what's to come. If it's cheap and unoriginal, it can dull one's expectations for the main event. Well, the bread at Caro Amico was excellent. Thick slices, fully caramelized crust, and served at room temperature as artisan bread should be. I'm always frustrated by restaurants that feel the need to microwave the bread to serve it warm. It ruins the crust and all you taste is steam!
Had I known how good the bread would be, I might not have bothered ordering the bruschetta pomodoro, but that would have been unfortunate as it was the best bruschetta I've ever tasted. The usual basil and tomatoes piled high on garlicky toast, but they added finely minced sweet red onion and I think they might have used a balsamic reduction instead of straight-from-the-bottle vinegar. Beautifully presented on a bed of baby greens.
For my entree I chose the artichoke & feta ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce topped with Pecorino-Romano. My dad had meat & cheese cannelloni. My brother ordered pasta puttanesca. We all agreed our dinners were superb.
When the appetizer and main course are of such high quality, you can be pretty sure dessert will follow suit. There were several varieties of cheesecake on the menu, along with spumoni, but the tiramisu was calling my name and I was not disappointed. A great finish to a lovely meal.
I will most certainly eat at Caro Amico again on a future trip to Portland. The service was excellent, prices reasonable, parking abundant, and the food was some of the best Italian food I've eaten.