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Cathy Whims, Nostrana

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#1 ExtraMSG

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Posted 17 April 2006 - 01:01 PM


Cathy Whims, former executive Chef at Genoa restaurant in Portland, Oregon has been serving classic Northern Italian fare to Portland diners for years. Cathy is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in Latin. In the course of her professional career, Cathy has studied with Madeleine Kamman at the highly respected School for American Chefs, and with Marcella and Victor Hazan at their home in Venice. Recently, Cathy cooked with Giancinto Albarello at Genoa and in his own kitchen at the Antica Torre Trattoria in Barbaresco, a renowned restaurant of the Langhe. Her extensive travels throughout Italy, where she met with chefs, restaurateurs, wine producers and distillers bring Cathy close to the heart of Italian cooking.

Cathy’s menus at times reflect her historical perspective, and may include dishes that date to the time of the Italian Renaissance. According to Bon Appetit, “Many of the dishes offered are otherwise hard to find in this country, but are just what an Italian food connoisseur might crave.” Cathy’s latest endeavor sees her resurrect the dwindling flame of an Italian culinary tradition known as roadhouse eating. Nostrana, a high-concept restaurant in Southeast Portland, opened its doors with Whims at the helm in 2005.

From her open kitchen perch at Nostrana, Whims remains dedicated to the philosophy of marrying Italian culinary traditions with the fresh and local foods of the Northwest. In Cathy’s words, “Italian cuisine is straightforward: there is magic in the simplicity of the recipes. Success rests on just a few absolutely fresh ingredients; when prepared well, how marvelous the uncomplicated can be.” Nostrana features 8 varieties of thin crust pizza blistered in a wood-fired oven, a local and Italian wine list and rustic Italian desserts.

Pizza Philosophy

Pizza for me is one the perfect dishes in Italian cuisine. In its simplest form, e.g. the Margherita, there are a few great ingredients on a delicious crust, cooked at high heat in less than three minutes.

It is also a dish that brings people together in fun, social gatherings for the purpose of sharing food. I have always thought of it as the perfect date food and that is one of my fondest memories growing up.

The impetus behind Nostrana was to make great pizza in a wood fired oven in a space that would attract all kinds of people. When I traveled to Naples it was so enjoyable to see how democratic a dish it is with people of all ages and incomes gathered in simply decorated spaces sharing a common love for pizza. At Nostrana we try to replicate a return to old world cooking with flavors driven by the wood fire and ingredients that haven't traveled far.

The greatest service chemistry has rendered to alimentary science, is the discovery of osmazome, or rather the determination of what it was. ~Brillat-Savarin

Nick Zukin, Mi Mero Mole

Co-Author, Artisan Jewish Deli at Home

Formerly, Kenny & Zuke's