Mangiamo! (Let’s eat!)
When we walked into Portofino just before 6 p.m. on opening night of the World Series, not many of the tables were filled. The unpretentious, attentive staff was at our service.
We sat in a roomy booth with a great view of the entire restaurant and ordered a bottle of San Pellegrino Mineral Water ($4), to give our meal that authentic Italian touch. Paolo, a co-owner, came over and visited with us and made us feel at home.
We started with an antipasti and an insalata. The Melanzane Rustiche, grilled and sliced eggplant, sliced tomatoes over some greens and topped with anchovies and a light dressing ($6.95) was a real delight.
“You can taste all the components,” noted my husband Michael. I agreed, adding that you could taste even the textures—the firm, yet sponge-like eggplant; the firm, yet slippery tomatoes; and the soft, yet prickly anchovies.
The Insalata alla Cesare ($5.25), Romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing, was equally good. Finding a good Caesar salad has become more difficult with the advent of bottled Caesar dressing, but we were extremely pleased with this. Michael commented again that the assertive flavors of the Caesar dressing were all discernable on the palate.
“And the raw garlic gives it a real POW!” I said.
Meanwhile, the restaurant had begun filling with patrons. A lively energy filled the room, so we ordered a few glasses of wine. I chose a little fruity white: Mezza Corona Pinot Grigio ($5); and Michael chose an interesting and delicious red: Catello di Gabbiano Chianti Riserva ($6.50), from the ample wine list.
As entrees, we tried one of the specials, halibut with Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts and Grand Marinier ($16.95) and a veal dish: Vitello Saltimbocca—veal with proscuitto, sage and white wine ($16.50). Both entrees were served with al dente vegetables and a bit of pasta with a light marinara sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.
Michael said the halibut, a bold combination of cheese, nuts and fish, got better with every bite. This is a dish that says, “Look at me!” My three nice slices of veal were covered with an ever-so-thin layer of proscuitto and a subtly flavored sauce that was creamy and delicious.
After our entrees, our waiter indulged in mouth-watering descriptions of each item on the dessert list: Tiramisu, pumpkin cheesecake, pecan cheesecake, zucotta and spumoni. Everything but the spumoni is made in-house, and it took us about 10 minutes to contemplate our dessert choices. But when they arrived, we knew that our U.N.-summit-like discussion had paid off.
After their arrival at the table, we sat staring at the treats for a minute before we dug in. We appreciated that someone took time and care in arranging them each in such a lovely way on their respective plates. The zucotta ($5.75), which means “little hat,” according to our waiter, sat half-raised on the lip of the plate with a cream and red-berry design covering the plate’s bottom. Zucotta is sponge cake filled with homemade ice cream with cherries and chocolate chips.
The tiramisu ($4.95), which means “pick me up” because it contains espresso and/or espresso grounds, was not a perfect parallelogram like the frozen ladyfingers you find in your grocer’s freezer: This slice of heaven was as real as a character in a Woody Allen film.
By the time we were ready to leave, Portofino was quite busy. I suggest calling ahead and making a reservation. If it was this crowded on a big sports night, I imagine it’s packed on a regular night.
And save room for dessert.