Mucca Osteria brings authentic Italian to downtown Portland
It's nearly 6,000 miles from the Spanish Steps in Rome to the light rail tracks in Portland.
But that's how far Simone Savaiano traveled, and more, before opening his Mucca Osteria last week on Southwest Morrison Street.
Savaiano, a Rome native who left behind two restaurants in Italy (including one, Tuscany's La Taverna del Buchino, that remains open) and moved to the U.S. He married L.A. native Kathy Chaya and settled down, working at Santa Monica's Via Veneto restaurant for about five years.
In 2009, Savaiano and Chaya hit the road, first traveling to Asia, then returning for a road trip up the West Coast.
Then they reached Portland.
"We loved it right away," Savaiano says, his Italian accent still thick. "So we decided to move."
Mucca (Italian for "cow") won't focus on the cuisines of a specific Italian region, at least not at first.
Savaiano holds the key to his new restaurant.
"It's a small menu but original," Savainao says. "We get all the stuff, like everybody, organic, local. Basically it's authentic Italian food from all over Italy, seafood, meat. All the pasta is all made, all the bread is made in the house." Savaiano ferments raisins in water to use as a starter for his bread.
"We also do tagliatelle, ravioli, gnocchi. And we have some particular ingredients like bottarga, cured fish eggs. We cure the eggs, and use them like caviar, or we shred it on the pasta," he says. "We sear sea scallops with a truffle-parmesan fondue. And we do this very old recipe that we love in Rome, we do the oxtail, we braise it. But it's very inconvenient to eat. You have to hold it with the hands, and there's bones and all that. What we do is remove the meat after braising for a long time, we chop it very fine and serve with tagliatelle, that's one: pasta with oxtail ragu."
Savaiano designed and remodeled the space, most recently home to "AJ on the Rails," with help from a former colleague at Via Veneto, Pietro Biondi, and Savaiano's brother-in-law, John Smith. Biondi, a chef and handyman, moved to Portland after Savaiano called and told him about Mucca. Savaiano's wife, Kathy Chaya, a teacher, is working in special education this year in Beaverton.
Savaiano and Biondi, both certified sommeliers, are working to build a small wine list of Italian denominations. They have a full liquor license, but for now they're sticking to "limoncello and grappa for after dinner," Savaiano says.