For most people who go camping in Oregon, an Italian feast involves boiling spaghetti atop a Coleman Stove, pouring out as much of the starchy water as possible, adding a jar of marinara sauce and passing around the aluminum pot. All while sitting on a log in the withering rain.
The proprietors of Assaggio, one of Portland's best trattorias, do things differently. They interpret an Italian feast as a progression of as many as a dozen dishes--bruschetta, salad, several pastas, gelato and pastry--each paired with a different wine. Even if the meal in question is served around the fire pit behind their WPA-era cabin in the woods beside the Zigzag River.
Eating outdoors at their retreat in the Mt. Hood National Forest is how Darryl And Sarah Joannides unwind after a grueling five-night routine of rotating 200 people through 50 seats in 4 1/2 hours at Assaggio, a former antiques shop in the up-and-coming Sellwood neighborhood. "I've seen so many friends burn out, so many relationships fall apart," says Darryl, 34, Assaggio's self-taught chef, a former Manhattan attorney who returned home to Portland in 1992 and opened his own place three years later. His wife, Sarah, runs the front of the house. "At the cabin, Sarah and I don't even have a television. We're completely disconnected from the restaurant world."