If you were paying close attention to the streets of downtown Portland in the spring of 2011, you might have noticed a young Roman cyclist pedaling with a passion from building to building. Among the swaths of bike commuters that pace this city, there was something special about this man and his daily ride.
He was on a search, by bike, for the space that would hold his greatest lifelong dream: An authentic Italian Osteria.
“We had no budget, not much money. I bicycled from place to place, looking, looking, I was looking for my restaurant,” said Simone Savaiano, chef-owner of Mucca Osteria.
Simone found his restaurant on SW Morrison—a tall, airy, brick-walled space that would come to be Mucca Osteria.
Osteria, derived from the Italian word “oste,” is a place that, during the Middle Ages, refueled explorers and traders with warmth, food and a relaxing atmosphere. Today, Italians frequent an osteria to enjoy small, refined menus, good wine, and warm hospitality.
Mucca Osteria reflects this idea in beautiful fashion. Entering Mucca is like taking a step into Italy, into those places where Simone was taught the importance of the most fundamental ingredients of Italian cuisine. Places like the deli in Tuscany he opened at the age of 24 with his mother and father, and his “second little place” where he grew, little by little, a passion for cooking and wine.
Now, at Mucca, the bread and pasta are made in-house every day. All of the essential ingredients, the extra virgin olive oil, the flour, and the cheeses, are all carefully hand-selected, and in fact, even the yeast for the bread is made naturally in the restaurant. Using fermented raisins, Mucca is able to produce its own yeast that gives their breads a unique, complex flavor. The pasta is made with a very traditional recipe using organic flour from local grains, egg yolks and not a drop of water.
Beyond pasta there is risotto, Pollo al Marsala with Draper Valley chicken, Marsala wine sauce, celery root puree, and brussels sprout, Coniglio Stufato con Prugne Secche with stewed rabbit from Nicky’s Farm, prunes, spinach and potato, and fresh, seasonal fish with daily preparations. There is also a beautiful antipasti selection at both lunch and dinner.
Simone, also a sommelier, created an extensive wine list that is strictly Italian. In a region where American wines are abundant, Simone decided to focus only on Italian varietals to stay true to the authentic experience.
“The wine makes fifty percent of the experience. If it is not Italian, it will change the way you feel,” said Simone.
As Italians often do, Simone sums up his thoughts on the restaurant business with words that could be translated to life, to love, to risotto: “It’s like a relationship with someone you love. Sometimes it’s tough but you keep doing it.”
It is worth noting that Simone still has that bike. Once in a while you might find him on a ride to pick up groceries, but with how busy Mucca Osteria is these days, it is a rare occasion.
Photo credits: Mucca Osteria
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