2009-12-30 / Restaurant of the Week

Portofino Ristorante Celebrates 35 Years

P ortofino Ristorante is proud to celebrate its 35th year in business serving superb Italian cuisine, fine wines and cocktails to the Queens community. Located on a prominent corner at Ascan Avenue and Queens Blvd., Portofino is famous for consistently delicious food, fabulous nightly specials, Tuesday night's buffet and Sunday's Italian brunch. It seems fitting to end a year of tantalizing restaurant reviews with Portofino, a stronghold in the Forest Hills area.

Carmine Polito, the charming owner, was featured on Good Morning New York on Fox 5, where he prepared some of his special dishes right before the camera. You can see the step by step demonstration on YouTube by searching for Portofino Forest Hills. No matter how busy the dining room gets, Carmine stops to greet all his customers, many of whom he knows by name.

Every night at Portofino is festive, with live music and a very convivial dining room filled with groups of families and friends. Enjoy a cocktail, such as a raspberry martini, Franece martini, shaken with vodka, Chambord, cassis and orange juice or a Portofino piña colada. A reasonably priced bottle of wine from their list will complement your meal. Though I've been to Portofino many times, this was the first time I visited on a Tuesday night, when their famous buffet really packs them in. Trust me, this is no “rubber chicken buffet”. Many of the dishes are taken from the menu and are continuously replenished for freshness and flavor. Choose among mussels Posillippo with white wine and garlic, the fresh fish of the day, which was tilapia prepared Livornese style with black olives, capers and tomatoes. Veal with peppers, house made lasagna, potato and crabmeat croquettes and even fried chicken were served from hot steam trays. Fresh vegetables sautéed with garlic and oil and a variety of cool salads round out the buffet, along with fresh fruit. Served Tuesdays from 6 to 10pm, this “all-you'dlike” buffet costs just $20.95 and is an economical way for families to dine out on a budget.

From the regular menu, we started with delectable stuffed artichoke hearts as an appetizer. Carpaccio is paper-thin slices of prime beef, topped with shaved Reggiano parmigiana and arugula. A plate of crispy baked clams oreganata also came with an addictive sauce meant to be soaked up with the warm garlic bread on your table ($8.95). The classic cold antipasto platter, features slices of provolone, buttery mozzarella, prosciutto, pepperoni, olives and roasted peppers. Grilled Portobello mushrooms or stuffed artichokes offer plenty to share. For two or more diners, you should try the hot antipasto platter featuring baked clams, mussels, eggplant rollatini, breaded shrimp and stuffed mushrooms. Any of the homemade soups of the day, such as pasta e fagioli will warm you up. My companion and I shared a refreshing tricolore salad before our entrées.

Portofino prepares the freshest fish and seafood in a number of creatively delicious ways. The special fish of the evening was super fresh red snapper fillet, sautéed with white wine, lemon and rosemary on a bed of spinach. This dish was a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. Fresh trout Portofino is made with scallions, tomatoes, and lemon, while fillet of sole is prepared marechiara style with mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce.

Pasta dishes start at $10.95 and come with a crunchy salad and garlic bread. The efficient, polite waiters will tell you about the special pastas of the day which may include lobster ravioli and risotto with woodsy mushrooms, sprinkled with grated parmigiano cheese. Italian comfort food includes baked pasta dishes such as manicotti, ziti or lasagna. Feel free to share a pasta dish with your dining companion as a first course.

Chicken Valdostana is their most popular dish. Tender chicken breast is layered with prosciutto and mozzarella, then sautéed with Marsala wine and mushrooms ($19.95). Chicken Portofino is a breaded chicken cutlet with fresh tomatoes, scallions and a garlicky sauce. There are succulent baby lamb chops with mushrooms as well as osso buco a popular Tuscan dish made by slow-cooking veal shank in a rich brown reduction sauce.

Our waiter Miguel tempted us with their dessert tray that boasts white chocolate mousse cake, moist carrot cake, strawberry mousse, zabaglione and berry tarts. Don't skip dessert…share if you have to, along with a cup of coffee or espresso and an after dinner liqueur.

Portofino Ristorante is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from 11 am to 11 pm. Sunday Brunch is very special, served from 11am till 3pm, featuring both breakfast items, such as eggs and pancakes, as well as soups, salads, entrées, pastas and more. The $19.95 price includes a drink, dessert and coffee and piano music plays throughout. The adjoining pizzeria serves excellent pizzas and hot dishes to go with free delivery.

Portofino will be open New Year’s Eve from 11:00am until 8:30pm. They will be closed New Year’s Day. Gift certificates make the perfect gift for any occasion and please plan your next party here. Congratulations to Portofino, celebrating 35 years in Forest Hills. Auguri!
109-32 Ascan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375

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