Carmen Peirano, co-owner of McMinnville's classic restaurant Nick's Italian Cafe, shares her favorite eats at Nick's and around Oregon.
Nick’s Italian Café, catering to McMinnville, Ore., visitors and locals for nearly four decades, won a spot this year on the James Beard Foundation list of America’s Classics. Carmen Peirano, Nick’s daughter, took over operations with her husband in 2007. Here she shares some of her abiding favorites. nicksitaliancafe.com.
Q What makes Nick’s Italian Café an American classic? A Good food, great wine, and hard work for more than 35 years. My father’s recipes were based on beloved family dishes. Some were straight from Italy, some morphed as generations of Italians settled in America, and others were influenced by the changing culinary scene. Our Dungeness crab lasagna is the perfect example of Italian tradition meeting Oregon’s bounty.
Q Some of your best-loved fall and winter dishes on the menu? A We feature a Carlton Farms pork plate that’s delicious year-round, but especially in the winter. It might feature a slow-roasted porchetta, pork loin with bagna cauda, house-made sausage, or panfried trotter.
Q Other notable McMinnville restaurants you’d recommend? A For breakfast I love Crescent Cafe, run by two San Francisco transplants who pay attention to detail and quality like no one else. For special occasions, Bistro Maison has classic French bistro fare and perfect wine pairings.
Q Where can visitors find great local ingredients to take home? A Try a tasting at Briar Rose Creamery in the Dundee Hills. Or sample its goat cheese on our menu and in our deli case at Peirano & Daughters, next door to Nick’s, where you can also find our Fino in Fondo salami made from Oregon pork.
Q Yamhill wineries you love? A We’re centered in rich farmlands and just over an hour away from the gorgeous Oregon coast, with access to world-class wines and vineyards. I like to celebrate with Argyle Winery bubbles or just sip an Elk Cove Mount Richmond pinot noir with meats and cheeses.
Q Other timeless restaurants elsewhere in Oregon? A Without question: Alexis in Portland’s Old Town. I grew up eating there, and I just took my daughters for the first time. We crowd the table with fantastic Greek small plates. Feasting, family, and ouzo!
Photography by NashCO
This article was first published in November 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.