It’s not the awards or the notoriety that fuels the fire for Chef/Restaurateur Cathy Whims. It’s the quest to offer historically-based, authentic dishes that celebrate a sense of place and a local producer’s passion that keep this beloved Portland culinary treasure at the stove. She and her partner, David West, opened Nostrana in 2005 and quickly earned The Oregonian’s coveted designation as Best Restaurant of the Year. Nostrana is an Italian road-house in Southeast Portland serving classical and inventive seasonal dishes reflective of Cathy’s close, personal relationships with Northwest farmers.
Nostrana’s menu focuses on the intensity of flavor created by cooking in the wood oven and wood-fired grill. According to Bon Appetit Magazine, “Many of the dishes offered (at Nostrana) are otherwise hard to find in this country, but are just what an Italian food connoisseur might crave.”
The restaurant has an excellent Italian and Northwest wine list and serves fantastic cocktails featuring a range of vintage aperitifs and bitters, hand-made pastas, robust and simple meat and fish dishes, Neapolitan-style pizza, house-cured meats and a range of exquisite yet rustic desserts.
Prior to establishing Nostrana, Cathy was part of the kitchen and eventually co-owner of Portland’s pioneering prix-fixe Italian restaurant, Genoa. Cathy attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Latin. In the course of her professional career, Cathy has studied with Marcella and Victor Hazan at their home in Venice, and Madeleine Kamman at the highly respected School for American Chefs. Whims has cooked with Giancinto Albarello at Genoa and in his own kitchen at the Antica Torre Trattoria in Barbaresco, and with Marco Forneris at Osteria La Libera in Alba, both renowned restaurants of the Langhe. A never-ending curiosity and quest for complexity of flavors found only in simple cooking takes Whims often to Italy where she continues to make new friendships and enjoy the roots of Italian cooking.
Cathy Whims was a James Beard Award finalist for “Best Chef Northwest” in 2009, and is a finalist again in 2010.