By Janet Goetze
For the Hollywood Star News
Walk into Enzo’s Caffe Italiano and expect fresh vegetables and pasta made that day. That’s the way it’s done in Puglia, said Enzo Lanzadoro, the restaurant owner who comes from the region in the heel of Italy’s boot, between the Adriatic and Ionic seas.
Puglia (pronounced poo’-lee-a) isn’t known for ravioli and similar pasta dishes that Americans associate with Italian cuisine, said Lanzadoro, who prefers to be called Enzo.
“The tradition in Puglia,” he said, “is to make it fresh. You want spaghetti? We make it and cook it and serve it. We chop the vegetables when you order it.”
That makes for a fast-paced kitchen in the small restaurant at 2529 N.E. Alberta St. because very little is prepared ahead, he said. The exceptions include the pastry shells for cannoli and the tiramisu, the sweet cake made a day ahead so the flavors blend.
Enzo, who arrived in Portland in 1977 with a hope of opening a restaurant, instead started a business importing ceramic tile. He had been a translator in Germany and France, working with business people and travelers speaking German, French, English and Italian. He enjoyed the conviviality of travelers and became a traveler himself for his business. But food was always important to him, he said. He had learned to shop and cook with his mother because he was the middle child of seven.
“The older ones didn’t want to do it anymore,” he said, “and the younger ones were too little.”
When he grew up in the town of Toritto in the 1950s and 1960s, Enzo said, nearly everything was made fresh daily, including bread. In the summer, his mother bought a couple hundred pounds of tomatoes from local farmers to can the sauces the family would use all year. His family ate meats seasonally, Enzo said. Lamb and goat were available much of the time, but pork was eaten in the fall or as cured meat into the winter.
Although he can offer beef, pork and lamb all year because of refrigeration, Enzo said, he nevertheless began creating seasonal menus with fresh ingredients when he opened his first restaurant in Southwest Portland in the early 2000s. About five years ago, he moved to Alberta Street, attracted by the multi-cultural atmosphere and pedestrian traffic.
His son has taken over the tile business, but he helps Enzo with paperwork required for the restaurant. Michele Lanzadoro, a nephew he helped raise, works with him and wife, Linh, in the restaurant.
For the first time this year, Enzo is serving vegetables from his own Cully neighborhood garden, which Linh helps tend when she’s not in the restaurant, he said.
“I have vegetables in the yard and on top of the garage,” Enzo said, laughing. “It’s like my father: If I’m not doing something, I feel bored.”
To relieve boredom, he also makes sausages served in the restaurant and some of the cheeses, including the smooth, buttery burrata. He has his own recipe for limoncello, the Italian liqueur made from lemon peel, sugar and alcohol. Bright yellow bottles are available in the restaurant.
The busy proprietor, who enjoys socializing with customers, has started a new program he calls “Happiness at Enzo’s Caffe.” After 9 p.m. Thursdays to Sundays, customers may come in, order a glass of wine and have antipasti that might include roasted peppers, cheese and meats.
“They can just sit and enjoy and talk to the people around them,” he said. “It’s what we do in Puglia after 9 o’clock.”
Enzo selects wines from wineries in Puglia during his annual visits with family. They pair well with his Puglia recipes, he said.
His menu’s first course includes Sugo Barese, which his family had every Sunday. It includes chunks of goat, beef and pork slowly cooked in a traditional red sauce and served on rigatoni.
A popular main course is sulla riva or large scampi sautéed in garlic with cherry tomatoes and green olives, served with roasted potatoes. Another is Bistecca Boscaiola or aged beef steak cooked over open fire and served with fresh Portobello mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese and broccolirabe with balsamic reduction sauce.
“When you come here, you are in Puglia,” Enzo said with a hearty laugh. “But we may speak English, sometimes, to you.”
What: Enzo’s Caffe Italiano
Where: 2529 N.E. Alberta St.
Dinner Hours: 4 -10 p.m. Monday to Sunday
Lunch Buffet: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.
Happiness at Enzo’s: Order a glass of wine and socialize after 9 p.m. Thursday to Sunday.
Contact: (503) 222-1601, www.enzoscaffeitaliano.com