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Foodies Favorite Finds: Kenny Giambalvo of Pazzo Ristorante

Monday, August 10, 2015


Giambalvo has cooked for numerous Portland benefits including those for the Cascade Aids Project, Portland Center Stage, Portland Public Farmers Market, PICA, The Humane Society, for the Morrison Family Services Classic Wine Auction, Caldera School of Art, and for the Taste of the Nation. Photo Credit: Pazzo Ristorante (Image Cropped)

Three generations cooked in the Giambalvo kitchen with ten at the table every night (plus guests). Among them, there was agreement that the teenage Kenny Giambalvo could cook. 

Still, it wasn't until his uncle handed him the article from the Sunday edition of the New York Times on the rigorous program at Culinary Institute of America that the 15-year-old Giambalvo began to aspire to be a chef instead of a rock musician. 

From his first job cleaning squid at Lenny's Clam Bar in New York to receiving the honorary title Maître Cuisinier de France, Giambalvo's culinary trajectory has taken him through some of the better kitchens in New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, and now Portland.

A brief exchange between his father and La Mascotte owner André Guillet led to his entrée to this world. 

"My son wants to be a chef, would Jean-Claude talk to him?" 

"Talk to him, I'll put him to work," Guillet replied. 

Giambalvo apprenticed with Jean-Claude Denner, who'd previously been a saucier at La Caravelle, bastion of true French haute cuisine, for two and a half years. 

Giambalvo has a vivid memory of his first day on the job walking into the kitchen. "I was smelling mussels, garlic, shallots, white wine. I could smell all different ingredients, and I said, 'Wow! What is that?' And the chef said, 'Those are mussels, now get them cleaned. Get to work.'"

After graduating from the Culinary Institute in 1983, he worked at La Côte Basque, La Réserve, Gotham Bar and Grill, and Remi before spending two years under the tutelage of Terrance Brennan. He moved west to take an opening chef position at Pentola in Santa Monica. Then he was offered the position of Executive Chef at Ristorante Bologna, a chic, modern three star restaurant...in Singapore. 

"I had carte blanche, had food flown in from anywhere in the world," said Giambalvo.  

When not in the kitchen, he reveled in the indigenous food at this Asian crossroads. 

"It was a life-changing experience for me. To enjoy these very specific dishes from so many cultures — Thai, Malaysian, Indian, every kind of Chinese — that have been done for 500 years the same way." 

Two years later, he returned to Los Angeles to become a chef at Remi.

Pazzo Ristorante in the Hotel Vintage Plaza brought Giambalvo to Portland as their executive chef. In 2000, he opened Bluehour to instant acclaim with his partner and friend, Bruce Carey.

Giambalvo has cooked on two occasions at the James Beard House in NYC, first in 1999 as chef of Pazzo and the second time in 2003 as chef /owner of Bluehour. He hosted celebrity chef Casey Thompson for a James Beard Chef Tour dinner in 2008 at Bluehour. Shortly after its opening in 2000, Bluehour and Chef Kenny were featured in Gourmet Magazine, Travel and Leisure, NW Palate, and more recently in Portland Monthly.

In 2009, Giambalvo was given an honorary award from the Maitre Cuisinier Society for his contribution to the preservation and promotion of French culture and cuisine.  

Giambalvo has cooked for numerous Portland benefits including those for the Cascade Aids Project, Portland Center Stage, Portland Public Farmers Market, PICA, The Humane Society, for the Morrison Family Services Classic Wine Auction, Caldera School of Art, and for the Taste of the Nation. 

With such an extensive resume, GoLocalPDX was eager to learn Giambalvo’s favorite little known spot to eat good food. Giambalvo’s favorite foodie find is Skyline Restaurant.

“This place is pure rock and roll. No pretense here. You can play horseshoes outdoors while drinking a good local beer, while looking out over the valley, while grilling your own meats on the ‘first come first serve’ outdoor BBQ’s (yes the owner allows you to bring your own food if you’re outside playing horseshoes), all under a canapé of old growth pines, tucked away in the west hills of Portland. You wouldn’t even know that the city is just 5 minutes down the hill. I used to ride my motorcycle (2003 Moto Guzzi California 1200) up there and enjoy a quick beer before heading on down Old German Town Road (awesome ride on a cycle),” Giambalvo said. 

Homepage Photo Credit: Pazzo Ristorante (Image Cropped)


Related Slideshow: Ten Floating Restaurants and Bars To Visit This Summer

Do you want to float while you eat/drink in or around Portland? Here are the best places to go. 

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Newport Seafood Grill

Are you looking for a classy dive with significant views of some of Portland’s most prominent bridges and skyscrapers? Check out the Newport Seafood Grill, a place that is typically vacant on a Friday night even during the tail end of happy hour. Though this place is very business casual, it is a tad fancy. You might want to dress up with a date and take to the outside deck where you can order drinks and watch the sun rain down over the Willamette, leaving glorious pastel clouds in its wake. Romance rating: 5/5. 

0425 SW Montgomery St Portland, OR 97201

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The Deck PDX

Everybody loves a restaurant with its pin dropped in the middle of the Columbia River. If you have kids who enjoy pointing at quacking ducks strewn about a ship-heavy harbor while you sip on a four-star margarita, The Deck is the noontime spot for you. Note: comfort food is the main attraction here. Enjoy fried things.  

2915 NE Marine Dr, Portland, OR 97211

Prev Next

Island Café

The Island Café has that Caribbean feel paired with contagious river views and solid draft beer right here in North Portland. This place is the definition of summer: playful, sunny, and family friendly. Order some fried fish and chips for your tots. Sit back, relax, and sip on a colorful drink in a chilled glass. 

250 Ne Tomahawk Island Dr, Portland, OR 97217

Prev Next

Portland Spirit

Sail away, sail away; sail away on the Portland Spirit! Say goodbye to the shore and say hello to Portland’s only boat-driven, river-acquainted city tour. This boat is especially ideal for mid-morning when you can find an adventurous brunch menu with items ranging from eggs benedict to pasta. If you want to be at a floating bar or restaurant that is not just floating, but moving too: this should be your pick. 

110 SE Caruthers St Portland, OR 97214

Prev Next

Three Degrees

Ok, so Three Degrees isn’t technically floating. But it’s pretty darn close. At Three Degrees, you can laze around in wooden chairs on the Portland waterfront and enjoy a glass of cold white wine on a warm evening. Three Degrees is known for its outside seating and the place itself has a flexible and easygoing American-inspired menu. 

1510 SW Harbor Way Portland, OR 97201 Southwest Portland, Downtown

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The Puffin Café

Though technically out of state, this floating bar is only a 28-minute drive from Southeast Portland. And it’s worth it. This floating bar/restaurant has adorable multi-colored twinkle lights strewn about its wooden beams. The vibe is laid back and somewhat reminiscent of a restaurant you might stumble upon along the Oregon coast. Portions are big here and the cuisine is diverse: enjoy halibut -- or canned cheese! 

14 S A St Washougal, WA 98671

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Salty’s on the Columbia

If you enjoy windows as opposed to walls – especially in the middle of a significant body of water, Salty's is a solid option for a sunny, or a moody day. The upstairs bar and the outside deck are both visually stimulating with assorted views of the Columbia River. This place also has a tempting happy hour, plenty of buffet style options, and (most notably) $10 bottomless mimosas. 

3839 NE Marine Dr Portland, OR 97211

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Newport Belle Bed and Bre

Are you down for a creative weekend getaway to the Oregon Coast? Book a room at the Newport Belle Bed and Breakfast, a hotel based aboard a vintage ship with an adjourning restaurant/bar that is sitting pretty atop the Pacific Ocean. This experience is bound to be sincerely unique, and it’s totally affordable. Side-note: this is the only riverboat bed and breakfast in all of America. Check this one out if you’re the type of individual who craves an experience!    

2126 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, OR 97365

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Buoy Beer Company

If you’re not interested in driving all the way to Newport, you might settle for the Buoy Beer Company in Astoria for a prime seaside attraction that will wet your mouth with quality local beer on tap. Astoria is a town full of dramatic bridges, and this bar has plenty of visitors: from squawking sea lions below to enthusiastic patrons above. Everyone returns to sip on some delectable clam chowder. Indeed, Astoria is the ideal Oregon town for an exploratory -- or even a bored Portland couple on an otherwise monotonous Saturday afternoon.  

1 8th St, Astoria, OR 97103

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Urger’s Bay Fish-n-Chips

Are you interested in exploring one of the most eclectic seafood restaurants down the Oregon Coast? Urger’s Bay Fish-n-Chips is a must see. It’s situated on a dock in Winchester Bay and it boasts all the prototypical seafood items that may strike your fancy. The real draw here is the view: watch the wind splatter the ripples of the river directly underneath your plate of fresh, local scallops.  

Salmon Harbor Dr, Winchester Bay, OR 97467


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