In today’s culinary landscape, where chefs battle for fame on countless television shows and the ingredient of the moment can change on a dime, Chef/Restaurateur Marco Frattaroli is a stalwart of honest Italian cooking, whose guiding principles dictate that tradition trumps trends and integrity reigns supreme.
Marco opened Bastas Trattoria in Northwest Portland in 1992 with lines around the block. Twenty years later and after various iterations, Bastas Trattoria remains a neighborhood favorite and an example of what hard work and unerring principles bring to the table: longevity and authenticity.
Bastas menus offer traditional Italian dishes, while the daily specials allow Marco to showcase more refined flavors and local ingredients. “Fresh is a relative term,” extols Marco, who drives out to the coast to purchase directly from the fisherman on the docks. Local sardines and anchovies, what he refers to as “bait fish,” are his beloved, as well as local razor clams and octopus. An expert in charcuterie, Marco has been curing his own prosciuttos and making the restaurant’s salamis and bresaola since he opened 20 years ago, long before “house-made” was in vogue. Bastas features house-infused liqueurs and an all-Italian wine list.
A self taught chef, Marco’s greatest influence was his father, a physician who was incredibly passionate about food. Born in Rome, Marco grew up in both Italy and the United States, immersed amidst the excitement of cooking and the kitchen. He experienced firsthand the joy that comes from a meal made with love and care and two hands. An avid hunter and creative thinker, his father was known to substitute spit-roasted robins in the classic Lombard dish, Polenta e Osei, when no pheasant were abound.
Prior to establishing Bastas Trattoria, Marco apprenticed and studied baking in Italy at Buralli bakeries in Altopascio, near Lucca. An industrial bakery with more than 600 employees, Buralli made all of its dough by hand and used natural fermentation. Upon return to Portland, Marco and a partner launched Tuscan Bakery in 1986, a wholesale bakery that sold artisan bread to groceries and gourmet markets, including Pastaworks, with more than 250 accounts. His signature style was a Tuscan-style loaf made with natural fermentation.
A self-described non-conformist, Marco is a maverick in the truest sense of the term. “I am a bit existential and fatalistic,” he explains. “Maybe if we eat a greater variety of things they will last longer.”