Eight years on, Ciao Vito, the restaurant with the bright mural by Portland artisan Tom Cramer alfresco and accustomed Italian dishes inside, has acclimatized into absolutely that role. But during that time, the adjacency about it — the Alberta Arts commune — has gone from advancing to arrived, with dozens of new businesses transforming the appearance of the street.
Today, DiLullo is authoritative a change aural the restaurant that he hopes mirrors those without, ceding ascendancy of the kitchen to a young, aggressive chef who is abacus Spanish adeptness to the restaurant’s Italian classics.
Chef Jose Chesa has already added a scattering of babyish plates to Ciao Vito’s mostly Italian menu.
“I’m not activity to change this restaurant to a Spanish restaurant,” Chesa says. “Some of the abstract are activity to stay. We’re not alteration completely; we’re acclimation Spain and Italy.”
Here are a few of the new dishes you’ll acquisition on the card at Ciao Vito appropriate now.
Cocas: For this circuit on a acceptable Barcelona dish, Chesa acme brittle breath pastry with cantaloupe, beginning ricotta, ache nuts, beginning basil, a balsamic reduction, babyish frisée, piparra peppers and mojama — adolescent convalescent for two hours with smoked paprika, salt, amoroso and beginning rosemary.
Croquetas: Chesa is a big fan of codfish. This archetypal Spanish tapa — a alkali cod croquette — is served with broiled piquillo pepper aioli, a blooming amazon bloom and pil pil sauce, an chrism fabricated from the juices of the cod, garlic and olive oil.
Patatas bravas: Chesa confits fingerling potatoes with peppers, garlic, onions and herbs, again mixes them with a ambrosial booze fabricated with guindilla peppers, a babyish red Spanish pepper developed at Dayton’s Viridian Farms, all topped with a ablaze aioli.
— Michael Russell
So far, Chesa has added a scattering of babyish plates, including his spins on acceptable Spanish tapas such as patatas bravas, codfish croquettes and cocas (a Barcelona flatbread specialty affiliated to bruschetta or pizza, but fabricated actuality with breath pastry topped with convalescent adolescent or absurd calamari). Ciao Vito standards, including the absurd polenta with sugo and the Piedmontese brim steak, remain.
DiLullo, 51, is still affable (remember, “ciao” can beggarly “hello” or “goodbye”). But the chef, who already aloft a time helped body up Portland restaurant institutions including Zefiro, Higgins, Caffe Mingo and Bluehour, is accessible to booty a footfall back.
“You get affectionate of burnt out,” he says. “Physically, I aloof charge a break. And he’s a adolescent guy.”
DiLullo batten with The Oregonian by phone. His answers accept been edited for brevity and clarity.
What was the aboriginal eyes for Ciao Vito?
It’s consistently been a adjacency place. It’s consistently been accessible seven canicule a week. We’ve consistently approved to address to as abounding bodies as possible. But the restaurant evolved. It was Italian. It was French. I formed in some Mediterranean stuff. It was a adventitious to baker from the heart, baker what your grandmother adeptness accept fabricated you.
Why change now?
I didn’t apperceive this was activity to happen. It’s aloof agitative Jose came in. We met, and I was very, actual impressed. He’s absolutely one of the best accomplished chefs I’ve anytime formed with. And I’ve formed with a lot of bodies — Greg Higgins is one of the arch bodies in the affable world.
(Chesa) can do acceptable French, acceptable Spanish, beat San Sebastian-style tapas, he can do it all. I saw it anon with his affection and his work. At aboriginal we were aloof activity to baker together. But he’s got his ideas, his passions. I wasn’t attractive to appoint somebody, do a civic search. I was attractive for addition cook. And that’s how we met.
How would you call Chesa’s affable style?
I’ve spent my absolute affable career demography it back, authoritative things as simple as possible. Jose’s affable is about the complete opposite. Everything he cooks, the way he cooks every ingredient, it’s all about finesse.
You can assignment with somebody and see the ambit appropriate away. He’s already adapted in above markets. He can do anything. But Portland demands a absolutely altered touch. And that’s how I’m activity to advice him out. I’m giving him an befalling to analysis the market.
I apperceive he and his wife appetite to accept their own restaurant one day, and they should. They accept a lot of affection together.
Can you call one of Chesa’s new dishes, and why bodies should try it?
His tapas, the cocas (see sidebar), are absolutely exciting. That’s affectionate of area we’re starting.
How are you activity to antithesis some of the added beat things Chesa wants to do with the affectionate of aliment your audience expect?
I’m not sure. We’re not sure. We’re evolving. It’s an experiment. I accept no abstraction how it’s activity to be received. We’re accomplishing it because his aliment is exciting. And it fits. He’s got chargeless rein. We’re absolutely still aggravating to amount out how to do things. We’re still in transition.
— Michael Russell
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