Dolly Olive Pasta opens in downtown Portland June 22

Walking into Dolly Olive, you’ll sense aromas straight from Sicily: thyme, garlic, sage, and fennel from the kitchen, while bartenders shake and stir cocktails made with nocino and amaro. Roasted garlic focaccia is placed on tables alongside eggplant parmigiana and chitara with oysters and tomatoes. In wine glasses, Prosecco and Lambrusco flow softly, followed by pours of Sicilian whites and dolceto Piedmont.

Those who walk in the uninitiated may have a hard time believing Dolly Olive is a Standby Portland relative like Mediterranean Exploration or Shalom Yall; Visitors won’t find Sesame Collective staples like mejadara, rice and lentil mix, or any type of hummus here. Instead, Dolly Olive — which opened Wednesday, June 22, in the former Bistro Agnes space — wants to focus on an Italian slice of the Mediterranean, while showcasing some of the restaurant’s best and brightest selection.

The Sesame Collective team, which operates not only MEC and Shalom Y’all but also Yalla and Bless Your Heart Burgers, had no intention of opening another restaurant in the near future; Their plan was to keep what they do, especially given the turbulent state of the restaurant industry. But over the past couple of years, when they opened small Lil Shalom in the former downtown area of ​​Shalom Yale, they saw nearby Agnes Pub vacant, with no updates from owners Greg Denton and Gabriel Quinns Denton. It was a dream space in many different ways – it had a large back kitchen, which would work well for a rep. It had a beautiful dining space, with exquisite tilework and lavish banquets. The building was just steps away from the Sesame Collective Restaurant, with two other restaurants within a 10-minute drive. So, after a while, they made an offer on space.

“We weren’t aggressively looking for space,” says Jamal Hassan, co-owner of Sesame Group. “But really, I felt like this was the right move – to take all the talent from across the company and put them under one roof.”

Hassan, along with culinary director Natalie Gulish and co-owners Cassie Mills and Laura Amans, have been talking about opening a pasta shop for several years. Gullish recently took a trip to Sicily and found herself particularly inspired by the culinary scene there. Mills worked in Italian restaurants in the past. Looking back at Portland today, pasta seems to be in high demand: Gabbiano’s in Northeast Portland drew crowds with its craving for Italian sauce, while restaurants like Ripe Cooperative have won praise for their handcrafted pasta on a more eclectic menu. Dolly Olive falls more in the latter camp: Back pasta made with Shepherd’s Grain flour, is just one side of a much more extensive menu. However, the restaurant will always have at least three each night, starting with clam chitara and buttermilk and fried ratatoni with asparagus, spring peas, and pesto. Mills is particularly enthusiastic about tagliatelle alboro, a simple preparation with French butter, aged Parmesan cheese, and crushed pepper — plus the optional addition of in-season mauerlats. “We want to let the ingredients speak for themselves,” he says.

Part of that ethos, which wouldn’t shock anyone from Oregon, focuses on getting Pacific Northwest produce in season for different dishes. The restaurant serves up fruits and vegetables from farms like Canby, Prairie Creek, and Gathering Together, for dishes like kale salad with ricotta salata and steak baguette with shaved summer squash. Non-local produce is often imported from Italy – for example, a restaurant will offer a number of different types of olives, focaccia inlays, drippings of Spanish octopus, and a pre-made and semi-freezing martini.

The bar has a similar love for imports: Many of the cocktails at Dolly Olive feature a wide range of amari, from a Sfumato sprinkle in a shaken mezcal-grapefruit cocktail to a malt whiskey cocktail with nocino, Amaro Ciociaro, and sarsparilla. Even in non-alcoholic cocktails, the bar will use homemade “no-maro” made from the pulp of grapefruit and other plants. “We want to make what we can’t have or we can do better,” Hassan says.

As for wine, Joanna Scarpelli – formerly of the famous Bistro Saint Jacques – has supplied a wide range of Italian wines, as well as Italian varieties grown in other parts of the world. For example, the selection of roses includes not only Barbaresco and Etna rosato, but also Tim Malone’s rose from nebbiolo, which grew in the Willamette Valley.

All this is served in a setting that has a faint echo of the former Bistro Agnes: remnants of tiles and banquettes, but the walls are now perhaps more muted, with wooden design accents. On one wall, a painted olive bush climbs onto the walls, designed by the company’s creative director, Austin Phelps.

In the future, the team wants to offer brunch through an extensive pastry program, allowing pastry team Carrie Ellen and Lindsey Caldwell to experiment and grow beyond their already promising dessert menu. For now, dinner ends with a spoonful of vegan spamboni, tiramisu with Kahlua’s mascarpone mousse, and an avogato with fennel biscuits and Vernet ice cream. “All of our locations are famous for offering shared boards,” Amans says. “But here, there’s more of a beginning, middle, and end.”

Dolly Olive will open for dinner on June 22 at 527 SW 12th Avenue. Take a look at the food and cocktail menus below.

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