Basta’s Trattoria (410 NW 21st Ave., 503/274-1572, www.bastastrattoria.com , 5–9:30 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11:30 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–11 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. Sun., $14–19) is the spot for flavorful well-priced Italian food in a comfortably refined atmosphere—who would guess that this renovated building once housed a Dairy Queen? The menu contains few surprises, just good solid Italian cooking that consistently satisfies.
Café Mingo (807 NW 21st Ave., 503/226-4646, www.caffemingonw.com , 5–10 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 5–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $13–27) is an always-bustling trattoria along a busy section of NW 21st Avenue that offers an intimate dining room with the kitchen opening out to diners—you’ll find it hard not to watch the cooks in action, as if you’d stumbled onto a set for the Food Network. The menu is a bit idiosyncratic, and if you’re expecting to dine in traditional antipasti, primi, and secondi courses, you’ll fine the offerings a bit of a puzzle. The dishes are well-prepared, however, and the service is gracious.
Make your way from the busy Pearl District  art galleries to Bar Dué and escape to Italy. The long, dimly lit dining room at Dué’s parent restaurant, Fratelli (1230 NW Hoyt St., 503/241-8800, www.fratellicucina.com , 4:30–9 p.m. Sun.–Thurs., 4:30–10:30 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $16–23), seems suffused with an Italian glow from the warm ocher walls, the wood-fired oven, and soft-focus memories of Tuscany. Fratelli is one of Portland ’s most authentic Italian restaurants, but not because it slavishly recreates one of Italy’s regional cuisines. Rather it brings an Italian aesthetic to Oregon’s bounty, as if Portland were a distant outpost of Italy with its own regional cuisine.
Italian cooking “like Mama used to make” conjures up associations of red-checkered tablecloths, piped-in accordion music, and a rosy-cheeked maternal presence in the kitchen. Piazza Italiana (1129 NW Johnson St., 503/478-0619, www.piazzaportland.com , 11:30 a.m.–3:30 p.m. and 5–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–9 p.m. Sun., $12–21) isn’t like that. This is a hearty masculine trattoria with European league soccer on the TV, effusive Italian conversation bouncing off the walls, and a persistent bustle that verges on rowdiness. Everyone comes for the pasta, particularly topped with the restaurant’s lusty marinara sauce, though the rigatoni alla burino (pasta with Italian sausage, peas, mushrooms, and cream sauce) is a personal favorite. For dessert? Liquor-drenched tiramisu, of course.