One of the real pleasures of spending time in Portland each summer is the pure variety of restaurants and cuisines that we get to try. There’s also the opportunity to get back to old favorites, and for Mrs. Content Guy and I, one of them is Piazza Italia, in the Pearl District, which serves some of the best Italian food in the city.

We love it. We almost always order a bottle of Chiaretto, and Mrs. Content Guy usually tries different things - Linguine alle Vongole is one of her favorites. I’m a lot more predictable - I love the Pasta al Tonno. (Mrs. Content Guy teases me about having “spaghetti with tuna,” but it is one of my favorite dishes and, well, I can resist peer pressure. Sometimes.)

I also love Piazza Italia because the waiters are friendly and helpful … and one of them actually calls me “professore,” earning my loyalty for life.

This year, Piazza Italia had something new to share … Bar Rione, which it opened right next door as a neighborhood joint that serves both as a place where you can get a drink while waiting for a table at Piazza Italia and a place where you can get wonderful wines and some great bar food - I could survive on the suppli (risotto balls).

We were on a rosé tear this summer - rosé all day! - and we have several wonderful ones at Bar Rione. Like a 2016 OSA! Frappato Rosato … and something called Vino Rosato Rarissima … both of which were just great. It doesn’t really matter, though, because the wine list changes weekly (at least), and whatever you order today probably won’t be there next Friday.

Which I appreciate. I love adventure.

Bar Rione. Check it out. Toast me while you’re there.




Last week in this space I reviewed Yesterday, a wonderful movie that speculated to entertaining effect about a world in which the Beatles never existed. Afterwards, I got a number of emails from MNB readers who said that they were going to see Blinded By The Light, which uses Bruce Springsteen music as its theme. Well, I was intrigued, even though I know nothing about it. So off we went.

Well, Blinded By The Light was one of my favorite movies of the summer, and I expect that it’ll be one of my favorite movies of the year. I don’t know if it is a great movie, but it touched my heart and soul.

The film takes place in 1987, in a working class town outside of London, where a 16-year-old Pakistani kid, Javed, feels trapped and lost; he is dealing with vicious anti-immigrant racists … parents who seem to be of an other time and place … and he doesn’t seem to be able to really connect to his talents as a writer.

Then, for the first time, he hears a Bruce Springsteen tape. (One of the film’s clever conceits is that in 1987 Britain, Springsteen is seen as washed up, a has-been.) Springsteen’s music and lyrics touch Javed deeply; it is as if this musician from New Jersey has peered into his soul and found the words to express his despair.

I found this all to be not just touching, but emotionally wrenching. (I am, I must admit, an easy target for this kind of stuff. See my review of About Time.) To me, there was something profoundly relatable about the idea that there are times in one’s life when we encounter a piece of art - a play or movie or book or poem or song or singer - that change your life and perspective. These moments are are the kind that open your eyes and heart and mind.

I felt Javed’s pain. I felt his emotional connection to Springsteen’s music. And that’s a lot to say for a movie. It made me feel something, deeply.

(It helps, I suspect, that one of the best concerts I ever attended was when Bruce Springsteen played Wrigley Field. It was an amazing experience … especially because we were there because an MNB reader sent me an email to tell me that he wanted to give me two seats to the concert, and all I had to do was get us to Chicago. Which I did. It was a lovely offer, and an unforgettable evening.)

I heartily recommend Blinded By The Light.



For you Trekkers out there … a new documentary about the making of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” is now available on streaming services, and if you are a fan of the show (as I am), you’ll find it enormously entertaining. Lots of production tidbits and trivia and interviews, and the amazing thing is that it was all crowdfunded.

Live long and prosper.