2010-12-29 / Restaurant of the Week


T he Gazette closes another year of fine dining with a Forest Hills favorite Portofino Ristorante. Portofino sits proudly on the corner of Queens Blvd. and Ascan Avenue as it has for the past 36 years, serving delicious, freshly prepared Italian dishes. The secret to Portofino's success is consistency in the caliber of the food, the tasteful, comfortable dining room, excellent wines, cocktails and service, and of course, Carmine Polito, the man at the helm.

The spacious dining rooms are festooned with swaths of fabric in red, cream and green, tastefully hung with gold ornaments to lend festive holiday cheer. There's plenty of cheer flowing from the bar, where a variety of inventive and refreshing cocktails is mixed up, such as Portofino piña colada, French martinis and cosmopolit ans. Rea- son- ably priced wines from the cellar complement every wonderful meal here, as does the live music and pleasant waiters. An extensive list of hot and cold appetizers offers something for everyone. From the cold antipasto platter with thinly sliced salami, creamy mozzarella, provolone, olives, and roasted peppers to the clams Possillipo swimming in aromatic garlic broth, you simply must try one or two before your meal. We loved the baked clams with their golden crumbs, served French style by your waiter and drizzled with their delicious sauce and lemon. Stuffed artichoke hearts are as fun to eat as they are delicious and the paper-thin slices of prime beef carpaccio melt in your mouth, topped with shaved Reggiano parmigiana and arugula.. For two or more diners, you should try the hot antipasto platter featuring baked clams, mussels, eggplant rollatini, breaded shrimp and stuffed mushrooms. You can't go wrong with homemade soups of the day, such as chicken pastina or tortellini in brodo. The Portofino salad, which is tossed with tender lettuce, topped with grilled chicken, red and yellow peppers, and fresh mozzarella, could be a meal in itself.

Portofino's pasta specials are fabulous. My favorite aunt and I shared an order of black linguine with tender shrimp, topped with a juicy, succulent lobster tail. This could be your meal alone, or split as a first course as we did. Other pasta dishes start at $10.95 and come with

a crunchy salad and garlic bread. There's tortellini with rich Bolognese sauce, fettuccine Alfredo, Special ravioli of the day, seafood risotto, and whimsical farfalle with chunks of filet mignon. Italian comfort food includes baked pasta dishes such as manicotti, ziti or meaty lasagna that everyone will love.

Whether you crave fish, meat or poultry, you'll find your favorite. My dining companion devoured the veal alla Portofino with a creamy sauce and tender, tiny shrimp and baby asparagus ($24.95). Veal osso buco is a hearty winter dish of slowly cooked veal shank, served with pasta or potatoes. Chicken or veal sorrentino is prepared with mozzarella and tomato and gently sautéed in a light brown sauce. Chicken Valdostana is their most popular dish, where tender chicken breast is layered with prosciutto and mozzarella, then sautéed with Marsala wine and mushrooms.

I always look forward to ordering the special fish of the evening which was fillet of red snapper Livornese style with white wine, tomato, onions, capers, black olives and a touch of tomato. Soak up all the juices with their hot from the oven garlic bread.

Who could resist the tempting platter of desserts brought to your table and described as strawberry chocolate mousse, zabaglione and berries, caramel custard, apple tart, profiterole cake, and Italian ricotta cheesecake. Enjoy a rich espresso or cappuccino along with your dessert or an after dinner cordial. 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, entrees, pastas and more. The $21.95 price includes a drink, dessert and coffee and piano music plays throughout. The Tuesday night buffet packs them in when you can try dozens of dishes until you say “uncle” for just $22.95. The adjoining pizzeria serves excellent pizzas and hot dishes to go with free delivery.

For the perfect gift, buy a Portofino gift certificate. Do what everyone seems to do and plan your next family or office party here where the food, fun and laughter flows all night. Portofino will be open on New Year’s Eve from 11:00am until 8:30pm but will be closed on New Year’s Day. Tanti auguri Portofino! See you next year.

109-32 Ascan Avenue
Forest Hills, NY 11375

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