Paccini Restaurant is located in the area of the Portland State University Campus; an area in Portland that exemplifies one of the many things that I love about Portland. This is no ordinary campus. It is located in the heart of Portland. It isn’t like a set apart, dedicated campus area like most college campuses. It is part of the city itself. But, I digress…
Location: 1717 SW Park Avenue in Portland, OR
Order: 1/2 order Lasagna (with Italian Sausage); Garlic Fries; Tomato, Basil & Mozzarella Panini; Slice of Pizza topped with Pepperoni, Sausage and Canadian Bacon. (My husband and I decided we wanted to try a little bit of a few different things, so we shared each item on the order.)
What I Think:
The atmosphere of the Paccini Restaurant is very college-lounge-like. Dimly lit, casual and comfortable, complete with a fireplace in the middle of the dining area and student artwork on the walls. It is the kind of place that you’d expect to host a poetry reading or a guitar-strumming folk singer. It seems to be a very popular place amongst students, as we dined there on a Tuesday afternoon and it was quite busy.
The lasagna ($6.00 for 1/2 an order) was quite tasty. It came with a piece of in-house made focaccia bread that is quite good – lightly seasoned, warm and soft.
Most noteworthy to this taster is that the flavorful sauce of the lasagna was thick and rich with ripe tomato flavor – not at all watery. There was an abundance of cheese – although I noticed that the ricotta filling was not overdone (which is probably one reason the lasagna wasn’t watery). The cheese was bubbly and even a little crisp on the edges. Stretchy! The noodles were tender without being mushy. A very well prepared lasagna.
But my favorite entree was the Panini Sandwich ($7.00). The bread was their focaccia bread that they make in-house and was toasted just right, creating a nice, crunchy crust but still soft and tender on the inside. Their focaccia bread is seasoned nicely and compliments the Panini quite well. I chose the Fresh Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Panini. As I ate the sandwich, I couldn’t help but wish that there was a restaurant like this on my college campus back when I was attending; I was a vegetarian back then and this would have been such a satisfying meal.
The cheese was melted and it blended with the Dijonaise sauce so well – these two components gave a thin creaminess to the sandwich. The basil added a beautiful, fresh element to the sandwich and the tomato was deliciously ripe and sweet. The red onion gave the sandwich a pleasant crunch and just enough zing. This sandwich had the perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Both the sandwich and the lasagna came with a small side salad composed of baby mixed greens and a tomato slice, sprinkled generously with Parmesan cheese. The sandwich was crisp and fresh, but, it was a little over-dressed for my liking.
Of the three entrees, the slice of pizza ($4.25 for a slice of pizza and a soft drink) was our least favorite. This slice seemed to be a slice of cheese pizza that had been baked off prior to our arrival and waiting in a heating unit … and then topped with pepperoni, sausage and Canadian bacon after we ordered it. It wasn’t bad, but it was quite average and I guess we had higher hopes for it – and sadly, it failed to deliver.
The side of Garlic Fries ($4.00) more than made up for my pizza disappointment. They were fresh out of the fryer: perfectly cooked with a crisp exterior and a tender interior. The fries on the top were did not taste strongly of garlic. The garlic taste was there… it just wasn’t strong. But as we made our way to the center of the order of fries, we could see chunks of fresh garlic. YUM! I do love garlic! The garlic was pungent and just a little on the hot side. Perfect. These fries would not be the ideal choice if you’re on a date – but they certainly would be a great to snack on after class.
My Final Thoughts:
As I said before, this is the kind of restaurant I would have only been too happy to have on my own college campus back when I attended: good food and a casual, inviting atmosphere. I do recommend avoiding the “slice of pizza” offerings, and instead opt for a whole pizza or perhaps something else from the menu.