Last Thursday was Amanda’s birthday, and since we celebrate absolutely everything with food, we decided a special dinner was in order. After a few days of deliberating, Amanda decided on Portofino.
Portofino is a family-run Italian restaurant that prides itself on serving fresh pasta, homemade sausages, and sauces made from scratch. It opened at 40 Weldon Street in Moncton this past November. We’d enjoyed a Sunday night meal there in early December and felt it was time for seconds. We live in the neighbourhood, and since we’re making an effort to support places we can easily walk home from, it was a logical choice.
We had reservations for 7:00 and were seated promptly by the sommelier, who encouraged us to take a look at the wine list. He made a point to tell us they only had wines from Italy, France Germany and Spain. Apparently there’s no room for New World wines when dining on authentic Italian food.
We were quickly greeted by a knowledgeable and friendly server, who gave us water and lots of time to mull over the extensive menu. There’s pasta, pizza, chicken, veal, lamb, steak and seafood to choose from and it’s all pretty tempting, but we had our hearts set on trying another of their homemade pastas.
Amanda and I discussed possible selections, but decided to open our meal with an Antipasto platter and a bottle of Masi. The sommelier returned with our bottle of red and approved of our choice, and he appreciated the look of pure pleasure on Amanda’s face when she took her first sip.
Not long after the wine, our server arrived with the Antipasto. It included a nice sample of authentic Italian cold cuts, cheese, bread, olives, roasted peppers and artichokes. I especially enjoyed the salty cheese and prosciutto. It was just enough to whet our appetites for the pasta.
Amanda got a spaghetti carbonara; she’d always been intrigued by this classic cream sauce made even richer with eggs and pancetta. She was not disappointed by the silky texture that stuck to the fresh noodles. I enjoyed a penne dish tossed with both marinara and pesto, with generous servings of homemade sausage and peppers. The server warned that it was a spicy dish and each bite was a flavourful explosion. We sat in stunned silence as we savoured every forkful.
After we polished off our bottle of wine, we mulled over dessert. Amanda selected her favourite--tiramisu. I had to settle for my second choice, because the server regretfully informed me that they’d run out of fresh cannoli shells. I settled for a pistachio cake, which was wonderfully airy and moist with just enough sweetness.
If there was a downside to the meal, it was the cheesy Italianized pop songs that played on repeat over the course of the evening. The playlist had one highlight, a version of “Someday” from West Side Story belted out by Pavarotti. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for the owner to invest in a satellite radio or maybe a compilation of classical music to help set the ambiance. The music was easy enough to ignore for awhile, but it started to grate during the third loop.
At the end of our meal the sommelier escorted us to the door to ensure we had a delightful experience. He thanked us, shook our hands and was extremely grateful for our patronage. It really reiterated the importance of supporting local people, who are passionate about providing us with quality food.
It’s been four days since our meal at Portofino and we can’t stop gushing about it. If you’re craving hearty homemade Italian food or you’re looking for a place to enjoy a gourmet pizza over a nice glass of wine, Portofino is the place for you.
1 Antipasto Platter
2 Pasta Dishes
1 Bottle of Masi ($30)
Tax and Tip
Total: Approx. $90