2011-12-28 / Restaurant of the Week

Portofino Ristorante celebrates life!

a s the song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Well, at Portofino Ristorante in Forest Hills, Tuesday is the most wonderful night of the week. Tuesday is when friends and families gather en masse to enjoy the bounty of Portofino’s famous Tuesday night buffet. For the low price of $24.95, visit the buffet as often as you like for a variety of fresh salads, soups, meat, fish, pasta and poultry entrées. Right now, the restaurant is elegantly dressed in its holiday best with colorful red and green fabric draped from the ceiling and twinkling lights everywhere. To make this festive atmosphere even more special, a duo of musicians circulates about the dining rooms, serenading one and all with holiday songs and classic love songs. This is a great time to visit.

Portofino has maintained its landmark position on the corner of Queens Boulevard and Ascan Avenue for the past 37 years. It gained its stellar reputation by offering consistently delicious food, fabulous nightly specials, great wine and cocktails, and outstanding service. The always bubbly Carmine Polito knows most of his customers by name and ensures that every meal is a pleasant and memorable one. If you’re lucky, he’ll even sit with you and add to the joy of the meal. Start with a refreshing cocktail, such as a French martini, cosmopolitan, or a Portofino piña colada. A reasonably priced bottle of wine will complement your meal. The fabulous Tuesday night buffet includes homemade lentil soup, three kinds of tossed salad served with warm foccaccia bread, and garlicky mussels in white wine sauce to get started. Entrees change each week to please the crowds but may include chicken Marsala, sautéed fish, homemade lasagna rollups, beef and potatoes, meatballs marinara and eggplant parmigiana. The fixed price even includes fresh fruit salad and a dessert of tiramisu, cheesecake or creamy flan.

If you prefer to choose from the menu on Tuesday night or any night, 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. A plate of crispy baked clams oreganata comes with a buttery sauce that begs to be soaked up with warm garlic bread brought to your table ($8.95). 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. Homemade soup such as tortellini in brodo will warm you, body and soul.

Portofino’s delicious and generously sized pasta dishes make an excellent entrée, or two can share one as a first course. Pasta dishes start at $10.95 and come with a crunchy salad and garlic bread. Choose among lobster ravioli topped with a light cream sauce, risotto with woodsy mushrooms sprinkled with grated parmigiano cheese, or tortellini alla Romana, tossed with sautéed broccoli, fresh chunks of tomato and sun-dried tomato. Nothing is more comforting than home style baked pasta dishes such as manicotti, ziti or lasagna. Fettuccine alla Carmelina combines broccoli rabe and Italian sausage with ribbons of fettuccine, garlic and oil….buonissimo!

Chicken Valdostana is so popular, layered with prosciutto and mozzarella, then sautéed with Marsala wine and mushrooms ($19.95). This is the perfect time of year to enjoy the classic chicken cacciatore stewed with tomatoes, peas and mushrooms, poured over pasta. Osso buco is a popular Florentine dish made by slow-cooking veal shank in a rich brown reduction sauce. This dish is consistently delicious and something you’ll surely come back for.

Portofino offers the freshest fish and seafood, with great nightly specials to feature them. Big, juicy shrimp are prepared with scampi sauce, spicy fra diavolo sauce or oreganta style with breadcrumbs, butter and lemon. Fresh trout Portofino is baked with scallions and tomatoes, while fillet of sole marechiara is sautéed with mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce. Frutti di mare combines all your favorite shellfish in a garlicky tomato sauce, served over a mound of linguine. All meat, chicken and fish dishes are served with a side order of pasta or fresh vegetables, such as broccoli, sauteed escarole, or broccoli rabe.

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 4pm, featuring lots of breakfast items, such as eggs and pancakes, as well as soups, salads, a carving station, chicken, veal entrees, pastas and more. The low price of $18.95 includes a drink, dessert and coffee and piano music plays throughout. The fabulous pizzeria at the front of the restaurant delivers non-stop.

Portofino will be open on New Year’s Eve from 11:00am until 8:30pm. They will be closed on New Year’s Day. Gift certificates make the perfect gift for any occasion and you should plan your next party or business event here. Portofino is where old friends and good food meet. Grazie tanto!

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