Ava Gene's
Image: Kate Madden
Chicken livers with Marsala-soaked raisins

In the Southeast Portland neighborhood that birthed his Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Duane Sorenson has brewed up a personal take on Italian food, crafted for Portland with shout-outs to Brooklyn. In a warm room of smart design and salvaged cool, the menu channels the obsessions of Sorenson and fast-rising New York rustic Italian vet Joshua McFadden: rabid hunts for the best ingredients, farm-fresh evangelism, and homey Italian integrity wedded with a freedom to play. That means flavor-aggressive pastas with a Roman edge; hot steak, chicken, and fish popping off the wood grill; and a wealth of local vegetables in simple but unexpected combinations, like pink-fleshed Mountain Rose apples crowned with honey vinegar. Cocktail whiz Evan Zimmerman is on a small-batch mission to match Ava Gene’s considered Italian wine list with an equally impressive selection of grappas. The night shifts into gear with a cedar-steeped Campari and brakes sweetly with Stumptown gelato—when in Portland, eat and drink as Portlanders do.

AVA GENE’S

3377 SE Division St
Portland, Or 97202
971-229-0571

EAT THIS  Chicken livers, grilled to order, mixed with marsala-soaked raisins and heaped on hot toast; Nduja, a decadent, spreadable salami shipped up from San Francisco pork lord Chris Cosentino (the New York Times aptly calls it “hugely spicy, unnervingly soft, extremely delicious”); extravagantly chewy orecchiette pasta holding pork-sausage crumbles, fresh and fiery; a crackling tube of cannolo oozing ethereal ricotta