Whims says she likes it so much that it's not unusual for her to eat there three times a week, adding that after returning from a recent trip to Tuscany, she immediately dropped by in order to keep the Tuscan experience extended.
It is a type of restaurant that Portland almost never sees, and certainly doesn't see executed so well. Burrasca is a provincial spot with simple flavors nurtured with care—a humble, lovely ode to the food of its chef's hometown.
Burrasca's greatest strengths are its pastas, like the tender ricotta gnudi, soaking up a pool of sage butter, and the velvety tagliatelle in thick beef ragù. Equally great: Calamai's garlicky, slow-cooked dishes like the dark, braised squid inzimino.
By far the most famous dish is the squid inzimino, a heady mix of tender squid, spinach crumpled like seaweed, tomato and herbs that arrives looking like no other plate in Portland. It's a pungent stew of inky, amorphous blackness punctuated with slices of crostini, both alien and deeply addictive.
Any of the handmade pastas at Burrasca fall into the category of ultimate comfort food for me. Last week I enjoyed large ravioli filled with fresh ricotta and squash blossoms. This week there's hand-rolled pici with guinea hen, pork and vin santo ragù —Cathy Whims
As at restaurants in Italy, Florence-born chef Paolo Calamai doesn't make every random shape of pasta to suit variety-hungry Americans, and perhaps as a result, his tagliatelle is remarkable in its consistency. The pasta is always on the right side of al dente, with its lightly-herbed beef ragù wonderfully balanced in salt, acidity and sweetness.
The new restaurant retains the food cart's charm and seasonal approach to food, currently featuring a pitch-perfect pappa al pomodoro and Calamai's old show-stopper: silky spinach-ricotta gnudi in a sage-infused butter sauce.
Burrasca's menu offers no pork belly, no truffle butter, no fleeting menu item placed there to please the Yelpers. It's f***ing refreshing.