3377 SE Division St.
The critically acclaimed Ava Gene’s placed fifth on Bon Appétit’s list of Best New Restaurants in America when it opened in 2012, and has since become the go-to Italian restaurant in Portland. The trattoria-inspired eatery, with red banquette seating, exposed wood beams and brass fixtures, is a stylish spot to see-and-be-seen, and is reliable for an excellent meal. Helmed by chef Joshua McFadden, previously of Brooklyn’s Franny’s, the kitchen at Ava Gene’s churns out dishes like gnocchi fritto with prosciutto, parmigiano and pears and housemade pastas like campanelle with pork sausage, kale sprouts and zolfino, but the surprise star is the giardini (garden) section of the menu. Here, vegetables are given the five-star treatment in such interesting combinations as celery with dates, almonds, parmigiano and lemon. Groups can opt to order family-style, but those dining in pairs should request a seat at the bar to watch the chefs at work.
Written by Emma Pierce