David Sigal and Blake Foster are best known for their pop-ups. The two were behind the wild, quirky cocktail program known as the Zoo Bar, while Sigal founded Mian and co-founded Sunshine Noodles with Chef Diane Lam. But their next project will be more permanent: Gabbiano’s, arriving in northeast Portland, is a future Italian-American restaurant serving staples like mozzarella sticks, chicken parmesan, duck marsala, and panna cotta. alongside bold classic drinks. The restaurant will open on Wednesday January 12 in the space that once housed Yakuza on Northeast 30th and Killingsworth, as first reported by Bridgetown Bites.
The couple have worked together several times over the years, and although each of them found work during the pandemic – Sigal at Mediterranean Exploration Company and Foster ran the bar for Paadee and Langbaan – they wanted to open something more. permanent and personal. Over the past two years, with the anxiety and distress of COVID-19, they have both continued to return to the comforts of Italian-American cuisine, cooking pasta dishes together and sharing their stories. Sigal grew up eating red sauce pasta and chicken parmesan, and Foster’s first restaurant job at age 15 was with Mama D’s, an Italian-American restaurant in California.
“When it came to this project, Italian-American cuisine made so much sense,” says Foster. “It’s in our blood and our history, and … it’s what really brings us comfort, especially in these crazy times.” This culminated in the decision to open Gabbiano’s, which means seagull in Italian, a play on Sigal’s last name as well as a tribute to the fact that apostrophes are “an integral part of the scene,” says Foster.
“It’s whimsical and fun,” says Sigal. “And that’s what Italian-American cuisine is. We could all use a little more joy, fantasy, fun, and comfort these days.
The team, which includes Daniel Pickens-Jones of Meta Pizza, has found a chef in Daniel Rehbein, whose experience includes Bantam Tavern and Piccone’s Corner. The challenge, says Sigal, was to find a chef who understood and appreciated Italian-American cuisine, but who could make it his own.
“It’s a tough challenge for a chef. There is so much history with food that it can be intimidating to approach, ”he says. “corn [Rehbein] really understood how to respect that food and also make it our own … it’s unique to him but really reflects the Italian-American cuisine we want to do.
Part of what impressed the team was Rehbein’s “Portland” approach to preparing Italian-American meals – he perhaps makes dishes that one would find on a red and white checkered tablecloth in New York City. , but it will source it from local farmers and suppliers and add its own settings. Take, for example, the restaurant’s signature version of mozzarella sticks, which involves baking the cheese in silicone shot glasses before breading, frying, and filling it with marinara sauce; the resulting dish is something like an edible shot glass made of cheese. Chef Rehbein’s personal touch also shows up in his squid ink pasta with crab, mint and brown butter, known as “girlfriend’s pasta” – he’s only served it before. to his girlfriend (Sigal says she gave permission for her to decorate Gabbiano’s menu).
That being said, many dishes at Gabbiano will be true homages to the classics of red sauce. Diners can saddle up at the bar for an order of fried calamari and a Caesar salad, and Sigal is particularly excited about the chicken parmesan and duck marsala. Surprisingly, spaghetti might not be on the opening menu, but the restaurant will open with similar square pasta called chitara, served with a classic red sauce and the option of homemade meatballs (which can also be ordered à la carte).
The bar, too, takes up the familiar and adds a creative touch. While the ‘classics with a twist’ trope is well worn at this point, Sigal and Foster have built a reputation for their offbeat, lively drinks – in other words, the twists here will be thoughtful and truly inventive. One example is their take on a Lemon Drop: A far cry from the ’90s version of the drink, this one features roasted lemon vodka, homemade saffron limoncello, and lemon juice, finished with sea salt. lemon. The staple New York sour is made with Lewis and Clark Bourbon from Hood River, homemade oregano syrup and oil of oregano made by Rehbein; it’s topped with a lambrusco float rather than a still red wine. “It won’t take you out of your comfort zone, but it’s a really unique approach to a cocktail,” says Sigal. One area where the restaurant will go classic, however, is wine selection: while Foster and Sigal are both fans of the bolder, newer styles of natural wine that permeates the Portland food scene, they stick to the “Classic Italian wines, made by Italians” for now.
Fans of Yakuza – or Ibiza Kitchen’s brief stay in this building – will find a different but recognizable space. The restaurant’s overall shape remains with a few extra decorations, including curved wooden bistro chairs and the obligatory photos of pasta on the walls. The popular back patio now sports a pergola and should be open right from the dining room, complete with heaters and rain covers. In the spring and summer, the team can’t wait to open the garage doors on either side of the dining room, making it essentially open-air. Proof of vaccination will be required for all guests.
Gabbiano’s opens at 5411 NE 30th Avenue on Wednesday January 12. Its hours will begin from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.