Another light in Portland’s competitive culinary constellation is switching off. After several owners, chef changes, remodels, and menu shifts, Genoa, one of Portland’s most historic restaurants, is hanging up its pots and pans once again after a last-ditch try at modern cooking under chef Jake Martin.
According to general manager Michael Garofola, the Belmont institution will shutter on Sunday, May 11 for "an extended hiatus," citing the need for a new direction. Accanto, Genoa’s casual next-door café, will remain open.
In 1971, seven-courses of Northern Italian cuisine was a novel concept anywhere, and a downright crazy one for Portland's east side. Genoa was one of Portland’s first serious dining experiences, with farm-direct sourcing, wine know-how, and a night-long forays into tradition. It operated as a kitchen collective, set high standards for technique, and served as one of Portland’s premiere talent scouts. Some of Portland’s best chefs today sweated Genoa’s stoves and wrote the intricate menus, among them Cathy Whims (Nostrana), John Taboada (Navarre, Luce), Kevin Gibson (Davenport), Tommy Habetz (Bunk Sandwiches) and Jerry Huisinga (Bar Mingo).
But as quality became the norm and Portlanders shifted to more casual food adventures, Genoa struggled to find its place, and closed in 2008. It reopened again in 2009, with new owner Patricia Eiting, a remodeled dining room, and menus that veered from Italian to modernism. But Genoa never regained its clout.
Coupled with Wildwood's abrupt closure this February, Genoa’s closing signals a passing of the old-guard in Portland, which was built on the back of pioneering chefs who harnessed local bounty, passion, and professionalism into a uniquely Portland scene. Higgins and Paley’s Place are among the last standing.
Still, it’s not clear whether we’ve seen the last of Genoa. The owners say they are hope to forge a new path for the space to reinvent the concept or head in an entirely new direction. Says Garofola: “We are committed to creating something excellent and unique, a worthy successor to everything Genoa has represented."
Genoa's last service will be Sunday, May 11, after which Genoa gift certificates will be honored at Accanto. Stay tuned for further developments.