A beautiful day in Portland is something to be savored, just like the beautiful food that abounds in our city. Today I ate lunch at Artigiano, The Pasta Wagon on SE Woodstock with my parents. We sat in the sun and made our way through the tasting menu. It was a delight. I talked with Chef Rachael Grossman and Tyler Johnston, the general manager, about making pasta.
My mom and I just attempted to make fettuccine last weekend – have you ever tried it? It is a whole hell of a lot of work. Mixing the dough, letting it rest. Running it through the pasta maker, letting it dry. Making the sauce. Putting it all together. It takes hours! Not that it’s not worth it – it totally is. But it is not easy.
Rachael and Tyler talked about how they use farm fresh eggs – she likes to use the whole egg to make the pasta lighter, not just the yolk – and how she learned to make pasta in Italy. And the pasta tastes handmade – tender and fresh. Rachael and Tyler both had smiles on their faces the whole time and their unbridled enthusiasm spilled out from the cart, onto our plates.
Everything we ate was beautiful and delicious. My favorites were the arancini: crispy fried risotto balls with spicy tomato aioli; and the handmade gnocchi or tender pillows of heaven, as I will refer to them: made with Yukon Gold potatoes and sauced with oyster and crimini mushrooms, cream and truffle oil. Really, really good. The fettuccine with a simple tomato sauce and the ravioli filled with asparagus grown just down the road were both light and lovely. At the end, when we were nearly bursting, we ate a sliver of their pork sandwich and a sliver of their chicken sandwich with a Caesar salad. Packed with flavor, the sandwiches topped off our already full stomachs. Then, the finishing touch – a handmade chocolate truffle. Immensely satisfying.
I read some reviews of Artigiano that said the prices were too high for a food cart. But I would like to say: the prices are a little low for handmade pasta. Ranging from $10 – $11, a plate of homemade, handcut pasta with a stellar sauce and local ingredients is actually a really good bargain. And I say that not as an expert in Italian dining, but as someone who cooks and has tried making pasta. It is a lot of work and I think that hard work should be valued. Especially when it produces such amazing deliciousness.
**Although this meal was provided courtesy of Artigiano, they did not pay me to write this post or tell me what to write. When I receive a free meal, I only write about it if I love it and can honestly write good things. You will notice there are not a lot of posts on my blog about free meals, because they are rarely as good as this one was. My parents’ meals were not free and they pretty much both imitated Bob the whole time. They loved it, and cleaned their plates at every course.