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Italy Comes to Bend

Want a change of pace? Just head over to Trattoria Sbandati and let the server know you want to dine family style. With co-owner and chef Juri Sbandati sending out dishes that only a native Florentine could produce from the semi-open kitchen just a few paces away, you’ll swear you’re in a trattoria in Italy rather than one at the foot of Bend’s College Way.

My food posse and I started what would turn out to be an unforgettable feast with a single jumbo scallop each, pan-seared to dark golden crispy perfection yet still translucent and velvety. Served with an Italian salsa verde of parsley and capers, and a drizzle of chili oil, a sliced lemon and arugula, the dish showcased Italian cuisine at its best—heavenly simplicity highlighting first-rate ingredients.

Co-owner and general manager Erica Parker, launched the wine pairings she would provide for all our dishes, with a lovely Ferrari Brut prosecco. (She’ll hook you up with wine pairings as well. Just ask.)

The Antipasto Toscano followed. Served on a wooden plank, the chef’s choice of Italian cured meats that evening included paper-thin slices of Finocchiona, a Tuscan salami with a faint hint of fennel seed, as well as a tasty Spanish hard salami. Green Sicilian Castelvetrano olives, Pecorino DOP (aged sheep-milk cheese from Tuscany) drizzled with barrel-aged balsamic, and grilled bread that’s now being baked daily at the restaurant rounded out the selection. Salt meets sweet meets spice. Who could ask for anything more?

Apparently, we could. Next, we shared the two pasta dishes Juri sent out. You just can’t beat fresh, house-made pasta cooked so that each toothsome bite showcases a fabulous sauce that has seeped into it. The eggless, hand-cut, fat spaghetti, glossy black from squid ink that also dyed the cuttlefish (think squid), took us to the ocean, while the rich truffle cream taglierini with its pungent garlicky, musky flavor brought us right back to the woods. Talk about a delectable excursion!

For our meat course, we shared two steaks. The grilled tenderloin was thinly sliced and served over a buttery artichoke puree that still managed to let the taste of the beef shine through. The fat filet, cooked on an open flame, topped with oversized salt-packed capers from Liguria and served over an aged balsamic reduction, can only be described as amazing. Its surprising size and tenderness are due to the fact that Juri butchers his own beef and doesn’t trim off the fat cap, which then melts into the meat as it cooks.

“Why would we go anywhere else for a steak?” asked one of my friends, who along with another of my chums had never been to the restaurant before.

 

The first-timers were already imagining their return when dessert landed. Talk about sealing the deal. A bright, fresh raspberry coulis countered the dreamy creaminess of the silky panna cotta, and the hot melted dark chocolate that accompanied the Bongo—a Florentine version of a cream-stuffed profiterole—was downright seductive.

Small wonder that Trattoria Sbandati continues to rank as the crème de la crème and one of Bend’s best.