3377 SE Division St.

Open daily for dinner

avagenes.com

971.229.0571

 

3377 SE Division St.

Open daily for dinner

avagenes.com

971.229.0571

Just when it seems Stumptown founder and serial restaurateur Duane Sorenson couldn’t possibly have time to birth another foodie- inspired enterprise, he pops out Ava Gene’s, a 75-seat Italian restaurant at SE 33rd and Division.

Sorenson is the force behind Woodsman Tavern, Woodsman Market, Woodsman Hall (under construction), and a coming soon Roman-style pizzeria.

Sorenson, it would seem, is having his way with Division Street and, judging from the packed crowd at Ava Gene’s on a recent Sunday evening, folks are loving it.

Ava Gene’s menu is divided into eight categories: pasta (primi), meat and fish (secondi), vegetables (contorni), and starters including pane (toasted bread with spreads), salumi (cured meats), formaggi (cheese) and giardini (salads); piatti just seems catchall for whatever didn’t fit into the other seven categories. The wine list is exclusively Italian.

The greatest challenge the menu presents is how to cobble together a meal from so many delectable choices.

Will it be cocktails and a cheese plate to begin, then pasta and a meat dish with room for dessert, or multiple pasta dishes and a starter of warm chicken livers accented with marsala and raisins on toasted bread, a bottle of red, and salad. Which salad? Radicchio sweetened with grape must? Apples and pomegranate? Sunchokes and pears?

The menu is a necessary effort; the meal is your just reward.

The dishes are not family-style portions. The idea is to order several complementary dishes in order to enjoy the range of northern Italian cuisine.

Orecchiette with pork sausage and kabocha squash won the day. It was cooked al dente and delivered with nicely-balanced flavors in a light tomato sauce. A raw kale salad, “Tuscan Cavalry” (lemon dressing, toasted bread crumbs, heavy dusting of parmesan) and the leftovers provided the perfect nest for a breakfast egg at home the following morning.

Both the sea scallops with celery root and the lamb ragu with chicories are well-conceived. Unless one is lactose intolerant, the panna cotta with pine cone syrup is the perfect dessert; it is wonderfully delicate and not too sweet.

Judging from the intensity and focus of the eight line cooks laboring near the intense heat of the wood-fired stove and Josh McFadden’s unrelenting scrutiny of each dish before it arrives at table, everyone — polished servers, earnest cooks, friendly greeter — is clearly intent on producing their personal best.

Ava Gene’s provides 12 parking spaces next door after 5 pm. Reservations are advised.