Located in the heart of Northeast Portland’s evolving Beaumont neighborhood, Amalfi’s Restaurant is an “Old Portland” staple. As the Italian trattoria celebrates 60 years in business, owner Kiauna Floyd opens up about her restaurant’s history, her dedication to building community and her experiences as a female entrepreneur of color.
The history of Amalfi’s
Jack and Diane Baker opened Amalfi’s in 1959 as “The Pizza House” on Portland’s Northeast Fremont Street. The pair later renamed their eatery to get a leg up on other restaurants in the phone book (the main form of advertisement and marketing at the time). The new name honored Amalfi, a coastal Italian city they’d recently visited — and secured a prime spot in alphabetical listings.
The family business has since been passed down to its third generation. Kiauna Floyd purchased the business in 2006 from her stepfather (Jack and Diane’s son). Floyd was no stranger to Amalfi’s, having bused tables, hosted and washed dishes there while she was in high school. Later, as she attended Portland State University on an athletic scholarship, she balanced academics and athletics with shifts at Amalfi’s.
Born and raised in Northeast Portland, Floyd has now amassed 24 years of experience running and owning a small business. She continues to take satisfaction and joy in working with her close-knit staff and customers every day. “I love the creative outlet I get from owning my own business, as well as the gratification of being a self-sufficient woman,” Floyd says. “The latter is increasingly more important to me as I have a young daughter who can look at her mom and know that with a determined work ethic, vision and a positive attitude, women can do anything.”
Amalfi’s Italian eats
While Amalfi’s is known for Italian comfort food classics like spaghetti and meatballs, calzones, lasagna and ravioli, the restaurant’s staple has always been its pizzas. “Everyone knows how much pizza is available in Portland, but what they may not realize is that we are actually one of the first restaurants to bring pizza to the city of Portland,” says Floyd.
The chefs at Amalfi’s pride themselves in not deviating from any of the restaurant’s original recipes. They still make their dough and sauces from scratch, using the same tried-and-true ingredients and techniques as past generations.
Amalfi’s to go
In 2011, Floyd decided to try something new at Amalfi’s. She wanted busy customers to be able to pop in and pick up something quick for dinner, so she opened a mercato inside the restaurant. The mercato offers many of Amalfi’s signature dishes to cook at home, including rosemary chicken provolone ravioli, chicken alfredo and, of course, their signature pizzas.
In addition, Amalfi’s has begun selling its salad dressings, including balsamic herb vinaigrette, pesto ranch and garlic bleu cheese. All the dressings are stocked at the mercato, as well as across Portland at Green Zebra, Beaumont Market and the Pearl District’s World Foods location.
Supporting the community
Amalfi’s often makes philanthropic donations to local community groups, from regularly feeding the Grant High School athletics department to hosting events for the Oregon Food Drive.
“Giving back to our community, which has supported us for the past 60 years, is extremely important to us,” says Floyd. “We try to meet all [donation] requests within our local community, especially our schools. I wholeheartedly believe it’s this symbiotic relationship that has kept us a successful cornerstone of our community.”
General manager and head chef Keenan Cron has been a part of the Amalfi’s family for 16 years. He agrees that the restaurant is an anchor of the neighborhood. “I grew up close by and my mother worked here, so I have fond memories of this place that began before my tenure,” Cron says. “The neighborhood has certainly grown and changed, but Amalfi’s has always remained a cornerstone in this community.”
Floyd doesn’t just support the community through donations — she also serves as a role model for other women and entrepreneurs of color. “Being seen as a woman and a person of color is what inspires me to set an example for aspiring restaurateurs who can relate,” she says. “I hold myself with a high regard and carry this torch with past, present and future in mind.”
Floyd admits that she does sometime wonder what people might think about her ownership.
“I’m the first person of color to own this business,” Floyd says. “While no one has ever asked me what a biracial woman is doing running an Italian restaurant, I often wonder if there are those with inquiring minds that just don’t ask.” she says. Although Floyd has dealt with her fair share of adversity, she says she has never knowingly encountered any adverse professional situations due to her race or gender.
“Amalfi’s has been in business longer than I’ve been [alive],” she reflects. “Our customer base is more concerned I keep the recipes the same and the torch burning rather than anything else.”
If that’s the case, don’t fear — those beloved pizzas are still the same, 60 years later.