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Stecchino: Italian food with a touch of French

Coming from The Pearl, restaurateur brings touch of class to town
by: Chase Allgood Chef Jeremy McMurtry (left) and owner Christian Geffrard combine to make Stecchino an affordable fine dining experience in downtown Forest Grove. The pair is planning a special menu for Valentine’s Day dinner Feb. 14, complete with soup, appetizer, main course and dessert.

After a year and a half in business, Stecchino Bistro has found a comfortable niche in downtown Forest Grove.

And it's probably due, in no small part, to the vision owner Christian Geffrard holds for the restaurant.

'Our atmosphere is very laid back,' Geffrard said last week as he and chef Jeremy McMurtry put the finishing touches on a Valentine's Day dinner menu. 'Everybody can come and dress as they wish.'

Characterizing Stecchino's cuisine as 'Italian with a touch of French,' Geffrard - the former owner of Le Bouchon on Northwest 14th Avenue in Portland's Pearl District - said he came to Washington County to give Forest Grove area residents a fine dining option at affordable prices.

Three decades

Before opening his local eatery at 2014 Main St. in August 2010, Geffrard, a native of France, had already logged nearly three decades in the restaurant business.

Stecchino is his sixth such venture.

Geffrard met the original Stecchino chef, Mark Cuneo, when he was cooking at Fratelli, another popular Pearl District restaurant. Brian Wilbur, a Forest Grove resident who knew both men, signed on to help launch the restaurant 18 months ago.

After transforming a storefront formerly occupied by Deli in the Grove into an eclectic space with splashes of color and a decidedly European feel, Geffrard added tables and chairs made from repurposed wood.

'It was fun making the restaurant into what it is,' he said, indicating that in terms of his own role at the restaurant, you can take the cook out of the kitchen but you can't take the foodie out of the man.

'I used to cook. Now I love to create the menus,' he noted with a laugh. He does that in concert with McMurtry, who came on board as head chef at the end of 2011.

The most requested dish on the regular menu is saltimboca - chicken wrapped in prosciutto - but McMurtry and Geffrard are about to launch several new menu items, including crab cakes, filet mignon and braised rabbit.

Stecchino offers fresh fish and vegetarian selections each day. Dinner entrees range from gnocchi to lamb stew to New York steak.

'We make all our own pastas, dressings and desserts,' Geffrard said with pride.

Prices at Stecchino, which is open for lunch two days a week and dinner five days a week, are moderate, at $6 to $19 per meal. Affordability was one of Geffrard's priorities, he said.

But more than anything, Geffrard wants people to relax when they walk through Stecchino's front door.

'I like to see people enjoying themselves and having fun,' said Geffrard. To that end, he's planning a special Valentine's Day dinner Feb. 14.

The meal will feature lobster bisque soup, a roasted eggplant appetizer, prime rib or crab cakes with all the accouterments and a strawberry tart with chocolate and whipped cream for dessert.

Reservations can be made at 503-352-9921. To find out more, visit stecchinobistro.com.