The next time you crave home style Italian cuisine or great pizza, you owe it to yourself to visit Porto Bello in the La Guardia shopping center on Ditmars Blvd. The Maniaci Family owns and operates Porto Bello with a great sense of pride for the quality of food Tand a great amount of respect for their customers. Their secret is in the fresh ingredients, incorporated into family recipes, all served in a lovely, yet casual dining room. Best of all, the prices are very reasonable. The tastefully decorated dining room features cool terrazzo tile floors and cream colored walls hung with framed photos, illuminated by sleek lighting. In addition, a private party room is available, which is elegantly decorated to accommodate up to 55 people. Keep it in mind for your next private party or business banquet at lunch time or dinner time. The service is delivered by a friendly, efficient wait staff that is always willing to accommodate your party, especially those with children.
It all started with pizza and Porto Bello makes some of the best around, made with handmade dough and sauce. They serve both American style pizza and Italian brick-oven pizza, available for free delivery to your home or office. A Neapolitan style 18-inch large pie is just $10.25 and Sicilian style is just $11.75. The house specialty is "grandma's" pizza, aptly named for its nostalgic appearance and flavor, where the mozzarella is layered onto the dough first, then topped with a smattering of fresh tomatoes. Try a slice of "grandma's" as an appetizer, before your dinner entree. Eggplant delight is a Sicilian slice piled high with fresh eggplant, tomato, ricotta and mozzarella.
Start with an appetizer or two such as fried calamari, eggplant rollatini or baked clams and a nice glass of wine. Porto Bello's entrees include delicious pasta dishes, veal, chicken, steak and seafood dishes that measure up to those found at more expensive Italian restaurants. The kitchen staff makes everything from scratch, including sauce, meatballs and sausage. One of my favorites is farfalle Calabrese that combines bow tie pasta with savory sausage, made in-house, and sauteed broccoli rabe ($13.25). The portions are so generous, you'll probably take some home with you. The evening's specials included handmade spinach ravioli stuffed with cheese and fresh spinach, topped with a Marsala cream sauce and walnuts, the perfect autumnal dish. Order your choice of pasta, including healthful whole wheat pasta, and top it off with their popular vodka sauce, clam sauce or a mound of meatballs. The pasta is served al dente and everything is cooked to order and served steaming hot.
Meat and seafood entrées are beautifully presented on oversized dinner plates whose rim is garnished with a confetti of chopped parsley. You can choose a salad or side of pasta with each entrée, though you should also sample one of their delicious rice balls or potato croquettes. Try their delectable chicken Porto Bello, sauteed with mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes in light brown sauce. Tender veal Francese cuts with your fork or go for classic veal or chicken parmigiana. You'll even find steak on the menu, served pizzaiola style, with onions, peppers and tomatoes or steak alla Porto Bello with sautéed mushrooms in a red wine sauce.
Shrimp are served half a dozen ways, including scampi style, fra diavolo in a spicy sauce or a la Francese. Salmon amore is sautéed with artichoke hearts, capers and mushrooms in a lemon wine sauce ($15.75).
Porto Bello is open every day for lunch and dinner, with plenty of great choices and daily specials. Finish your meal with coffee, espresso or cappuccino and a hand-filled cannoli or a slice of their house made Italian cheesecake or tiramisu that is out of this world.
Don't forget private parties and catering for all occasions. The tastefully decorated private room is perfect for your next office function or family event. Porto Bello is open from 11 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (10 p.m. on Sundays). There's plenty of free parking in the shopping center too.You may even fax in your order for delivery to your home or office. Bon appetito!