The wife and I needed a place open late for dinner. Cafe Castagna seats until 11 pm (at least on weekends), and we've been wanting to try it. My wife likes Castagna pretty well. It's never done much for me.
The cafe has a mix of pub and bistro level dishes with items like burgers, pasta, pizza, and steak. The appetizers are more upscale and interesting than the entrees. Honestly, I found the entree choices rather boring.
My wife ordered two appetizers, 1) a "salad" of cranberry beans, tuna, and tomatoes ($7), 2) fried fontina risotto balls ($4). The salad was simple and decent. They skimped on the tuna, imo, only garnishing the salad with a few very thin slices. Overall it was pretty small, too, maybe a 5 inch diameter dish with one layer of beans in oil with herbs and some cherry tomatoes and the skimpy garnish of tuna.
There were four golfball sized risotto balls. They were pretty tasty (though under-salted) with a nice thin crunchy crust and soft, cheesy interior.
I ordered the steak and fries ($19). To put an end to the rumor, I asked about the fries: they are *not* fried in duck fat. They use peanut oil. They do occasionally have a side of potatoes roasted in duck fat, however.
The fries were pretty good, nice and crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. There was none of that raw potato flavor that I dislike that you get in In-n-Out's freshly made fries, eg, and none of the chemically aftertaste you get from many fast food chains. Definitely some of the better fries I've had in Portland.
The Painted Hills flat iron steak was good, tender and juicy and cooked perfectly. (Well, I wouldn't have minded some more crust on the outside, but it was done perfectly on the inside and it wasn't without a crust.) It was served on top of arugula with aged balsamic. The only complaint about the steak was that at $19 I expect a little bigger cut. It was probably 8 ozs.
The dessert menu was totally boring with the most interesting item being the huckleberry sorbet with cookies. That's okay, I can scoop up some of my own homemade blackberry sorbet or the HD mango sorbet in my fridge myself for a lot cheaper than $5. Come on folks! Help the economy! Put a pastry chef to work!
Cafe Castagna is a good late night option. However, I think I'd get more flavor and more food for the dollar down the street at Ken's. And as far as bistros go, I'd definitely rather go to Carafe which has a better menu.