2014-01-01 / Restaurant of the Week

Portofino Ristorante

What started as a humble pizzeria some 39 years ago has grown into a Forest Hills institution for fine Italian cuisine, posed elegantly on the corner of Ascan Avenue and Queens Boulevard Every time I come here I feel as if I’m “home” with friends and family. Indeed Carmine, George and the friendly, hardworking staff make you feel that way, even remembering your favorite dishes or recommending something that they know you’ll love from the nightly specials. Start 2014 off properly with a delicious meal here with friends, family, or that special someone. Hundreds of successful business dinners have been held here as well, so whatever the occasion, you’ll be comfortably accommodated at Portofino Ristorante.

Live music fills the air on many nights, including the Tuesday night Italian Buffet beset with a lavish, all-you-can-eat feast for just $24.95 including dessert and coffee. Portofino’s fabulous Sunday brunch provides another array of dishes to satisfy your breakfast, brunch, and lunch cravings for $20.95 including a brunch cocktail or glass of wine.

Speaking of wine, order a bottle from the list of reasonably priced vintages or start with one of their inventive cocktails, such as a French martini, First Kiss, cosmopolitan, or a Portofino piña colada. Next, you’ll enjoy one of the nightly appetizer specials such as the cold seafood salad tossed with a bounty from the sea, olives, celery and a zesty vinaigrette dressing, or classic tortellini in brodo soup, warming corn chowder, or the special insalata la nonna with fresh mozzarella and avocado over tender greens. The menu has so many tantalizing appetizers. Just try to decide among stuffed artichoke hearts filled with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and crispy bread crumbs, sautéed in a heavenly lemon butter sauce or a “beefy” grilled Portobello mushroom served with asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes ($13.50). I really enjoyed the carpaccio of beef, which is raw sirloin sliced paper thin, served with mixed greens and shaved Parmigiano cheese. If you can’t decide, simply share the hot antipasto platter filled with plump shrimp, clams, mussels, stuffed mushrooms and fresh eggplant rollatini ($12.95).

The special pasta of the night was tri-color linguine with tender shrimp, clams, and cherry tomatoes prepared in white wine and garlic sauce. Portofino’s delicious and generously sized pasta dishes make an excellent entrée, or two can share one as a first course. From the menu, 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. Green fettuccine is topped with frutta di mare including clams, mussels, calamari, scallops and shrimp in a light tomato garlic sauce ($21.95). Farfalle alla Portofino combines bow tie pasta with chunks of filet mignon, sun-dried tomatoes, broccoli and garlic. One of my favorites is fettuccini Carmellina with broccoli rabe and sausage. Everyone loves Portofino’s baked ziti, meaty lasagna, stuffed shells, and fluffy manicotti. Toothsome risotto is slowly cooked with woodsy mushrooms, seafood, or vegetables, all sprinkled with grated Parmigiano.

The chef’s special chicken Salerno was sautéed with jumbo shrimp and broccoli in a sweet Marsala wine sauce. Chicken Valdostana is labeled as their most popular dish, and with good reason. Tender chicken cutlets are layered with prosciutto and mozzarella, then sautéed with Marsala wine and mushrooms. This is the perfect time of year to enjoy the classic chicken cacciatore stewed with tomatoes, peas and mushrooms, poured over pasta. Tonight’s ossobuco was made with a hefty pork shank slowcooked in a rich reduction sauce, served over rice.

Ask about the fresh fish of the day, such as branzino or cod, or try their stuffed fillet of sole filled with breadcrumbs, shrimp, scallops and peas in a buttery scampi sauce.

Portofino Ristorante is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from 11 am to 11 pm. You can get here easily with the E or F trains or have your meal delivered to your home or office. Don’t forget their fabulous pizza to go or for delivery with its light, crispy crust and all your favorite toppings. Start the New Year in grand style with a classic Italian meal at Portofino Ristorante. Bon Appetito!

109-32 Ascan Avenue  Forest Hills


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