182 Ocean Ave., Portland
In the previous installment of The Breakfast Serial I wrote of having discovered a great place to eat a filling breakfast for just $5. Tipo, an Italian bistro owned by the proprietors of Old Port culinary hot spot Central Provisions, is definitely not that kind of place. But it sure is delicious.
I’d been hearing great things about Tipo’s brick-oven pizzas and small plates since the restaurant opened last winter in Portland’s Back Cove neighborhood — an area with a dearth of good dining options. So I was happy to suggest it as the location for a friend’s birthday brunch. My wife and I arrived on a sunny Sunday morning and scored a table on the patio. Tipo doesn’t offer regular brewed coffee — only espresso, Americano/cappuccino, or latte — so I chose the Caffè Americano (espresso and hot water; $3). It was excellent, but it cooled off quickly in the breeze and a “warm-up” wasn’t really an option.
When our friends arrived we ordered cocktails. My Mimosa Spritz ($9), made with Aperol, Prosecco and OJ, lacked bubbles and was a bit too sweet for my taste. The slightly boozy, refreshing Negroni Sbagliato ($11), made with Campari, Cocchi’s Vermouth di Torino, and Prosecco, was better. The spicy Bloody Mary ($10), garnished with thin-sliced pickled vegetables, was the best of the three.
We started with a Lime Panna Cotta ($10) to share. The thick, creamy Italian pudding was topped with a layer of berry gelée, fresh raspberries and a walnut crumble. It was amazing: perfectly smooth, light, and not too sweet.
The entrée portions were all on the small side, but each was outstanding in its own way. I chose the Black Pepper Tagliatelle ($15): al dente pasta with a poached egg, crisp pancetta and parmesan in a rich brodo (a fancy Italian word for “broth”). My wife ordered the Crispy Local Potatoes ($9) with pine nuts, goat-milk feta and a radish-top-and-basil pesto that she proclaimed to be “the best pesto I’ve ever eaten.” For an extra dollar she added an expertly cooked over-easy egg on top.
The Pork Ragu ($10), a cast-iron skillet of rich, spicy meat sauce, was served with two small triangles of crisp focaccia and topped with mascarpone cheese and an egg. My friend’s Margherita Pizza ($10) took top honors. It was crisp and lightly charred, and the addition of an egg ($1) and crispy pancetta ($2) turned it into a memorable meal.
The four of us collectively spent over $100 (plus tip). This is not the most expensive brunch around, but it’s not cheap — and most of us were hungry again just a couple hours later — so Tipo won’t be one of our regular weekend destinations. But for a special occasion (or to impress out-of-town guests), Tipo is hard to beat.
— Dan Zarin
Tipo serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.