Post vacation let-down is a bitch. I yearn for the the languid days, the sense of discovery, and – of course – the food.

Paciarino's sign and Adam's photo of the stunning Amalfi Coast

When we lived in the mid-south I was mostly out of luck. Post vacation culinary cravings were never satisfied. Returns from Vietnam and Turkey were particularly harsh. There ain’t no street Pho in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, folks.

But Portland has proven a salve – easing my re-entry from a recent trip to France and Italy. Three places in particular have helped me over the hump: Paciarino, Gorgeous Gelato and Petite Jacqueline.

Just sitting at Paciarino’s bare, blonde wood tables makes me wistful. Shades of creamy gold and robin’s egg blue evoke a crisp Mediterranean morning. A rich, doughy odor wafts from the open kitchen as pasta ribbons curl into existence. Set in front of me, a hearty plate of Tagliatelle alla Bolognese steams with meaty, tomato goodness tinged with garlic, rosemary and cloves. Made from owner Fabiana de Savino’s trusted family recipe, the sauce is pure heaven atop a generous pile of thick, al dente strands.

Next to me, Adam’s “oh man-ing” over fat ravioli pillows stuffed with goat cheese and Vidalia onions caramelized with a touch of fresh sage. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil glistens on his fork as he stabs chunks of the tender pockets slathered in traditional Pomodoro sauce speckled with fresh ground parmigiano. 

A few days before I’d sampled the Ravioli di Pesce al Pomodoro – packed with local shrimp and haddock. Also stellar. (In fact, everything I’ve ever eaten at Paciarino rings with authentic flavor and fresh ingredients. Try the olivey Maccheroni Paesani or the Spaghetti aglio olio e Peperoncino if you spy these house specialties featured on the restaurant’s signature blackboard.)

We could sit here all afternoon sipping Falanghina (a lemony, crisp Campania white that won over two, seriously committed red addicts), remembering lazy days on the Amalfi Coast, but we have a self-imposed date a few doors up Fore Street.

I’ve written about Gorgeous Gelato before. It was blessing in January – and a Godsend now. It’s astounding how addicted Adam and I became to traditional Italian gelato in just a few weeks. The creamy and fierce dark chocolate is exactly like the glorious scoops I ate all over Venice and it harkens me back. Bitter sweet – both the taste and the memories.

Sigh.

Up next: Petite Jacqueline.

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