Sunday, January 31, 2010

Lovely Lunchin'

I'm not a "ladies who lunch" kind of person (as if that wasn't pretty dang obvious).

Many years ago I met a friend, along with her sister who was visiting from New York, for lunch at Zefiro. Because it was on Northwest 21st, within spitting distance of the newly-trendy (and very expensive) shops on Northwest 23rd, it was frequented by a certain kind of West Hills matron who considered it a nice enough but not-too-fancy place to meet her friends and yet safely park her Mercedes.

The wild boar sandwich.

On that day we'd ordered the de rigeur house Caesar, still one of the best I can remember, and in came a gaggle of the aforementioned matrons, one the very recognizable wife of a prominent surgeon, dressed head to toe in a bright purple patterned fake fur suit with matching pill-box hat, pearls and what were no doubt her daytime diamonds. It was a sight to take your breath, if not your appetite, away.

Needless to say, when a friend wants to meet for lunch, I tend to choose more casual settings. I posted a couple of weeks ago about having drinks and snacks at Accanto, which in Italian means "next door," in this case sharing a wall (and management) with Genoa, Portland's newly regenerated temple to Italian cuisine. Having perused the lunch menu while I was there, the next time I got to choose a place, I suggested meeting there.

Cannelini bean soup.

It's got a bright, casual, café-like feeling in the middle of the day with its large windows looking out over the corner of 29th and Belmont, and most tables have a wide-open view of the street, giving it a neighborhood-y feel. There are several beers available on tap in a variety of styles, with locals featured prominently, which are selected to match the food. The same applies to the wine list, a nice, moderately priced selection of slurpers fit for lunch or sipping.

The soup du jour was a cannellini bean with vegetables, hearty and filling. I had the wild boar sandwich, tender, falling-apart shreds of meat in a sweet-yet-tangy barbecue sauce on a baguette, topped with provolone and pickled onions. This was a boar to fall in love with, and it made me want to shove in a few of the pile of cross-cut house chips that came with it just to take it over the top and add that salty crunch.

One friend ordered the crostini di polenta al fungi, basically a mushroom-tomato ragu on toasted rounds of polenta that was complete heaven. It would be the perfect dish to share with a friend and a couple of glasses of wine (or a cocktail) and a salad, whether for lunch or an early dinner. For a place next door, it's got a lot to offer all on its own.

Details: Accanto, 2838 SE Belmont St. 503-235-4900.

Accanto has also just announced happy hours from 3-6 pm daily, and in the evening from 9 pm-close weekdays, 10 pm-close weekends.

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