2017-12-27 / Restaurant of the Week

Portofino Ristorante

We end every year of fine dining in Queens with a brilliant send-off and bundles of joy at Portofino Ristorante in Forest Hills, “where old friends and good food meet.” Nothing could be truer at this fine establishment with 43 years of hospitality in its history. Why, most of the staff have 25 years here, owing to Portofino’s friendliness and warmth led by the charismatic Carmine, who is loved by all, and who loves all his guests.

The menu says, “Welcome to Forest Hills, Italy,” where you’ll be caressed in comfort while enjoying traditional Italian cuisine and wines and great cocktails too as you celebrate life. Indeed, Portofino was packed the night I visited, with holiday parties of all sorts and the regular clientele who come for the fabulous food. Start with a Botanical martini, a Tiramisu martini, or a Passion martini mixed with elderflower liqueur, pineapple and a splash of cranberry. A nice glass of Chianti, Malbec, or Montepulciano works well too, or an ice-cold beer to start you off.

We started with a roasted beet salad topped with goat cheese, toasted pistachio nuts and orange slices that was just fantastic. Next came a pan-seared, savory crab cake, chock full of sweet lump crabmeat and mild seasonings, in a puddle of pomegranate puree. The mussels steamed with garlic and white wine are so delicious and the broth begs to be soaked up with the warm garlic bread brought to your table. Everyone loves the fried calamari, meant to be shared, and baked clams oreganata with delicate bread crumbs and garlic. The hot antipasto platter is loaded with juicy shrimp, clams, mussels, stuffed mushrooms and fresh eggplant rollatini ($15.95). Tuscan antipasto offers your favorite cuts of cured prosciutto, salami, cheeses, fresh mozzarella, and artichoke hearts topped with shaved Reggiano Parmigiano, just perfect for sharing ($14.95). Veteran waiter George announced some specials which included toothsome risotto with chunks of tender filet mignon. Pappardelle pasta with a creamy mascarpone cheese sauce was another option. And you simply can’t go wrong with any of Portofino’s pasta dishes which would make any nonna proud. Spaghetti mare e monte is topped with shrimp, scallops, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil. Light, fluffy cheese ravioli, butternut squash ravioli, or lobster ravioli topped with a light cream sauce are great choices. Orecchiette are “little ears” pasta prepared with broccoli rabe and sweet Italian sausage for a hearty meal. Gnocchi al sugo Toscana are light, toothsome bites topped with a rich meat sauce with diced mushrooms. Linguine alle vongole with sweet clams comes in red or white sauce just waiting to be slurped up. Baked pasta dishes are the perfect comfort food such as stuffed shells, baked ziti, and lasagna, with plenty to take home. Portofino does a fine job with fish, meat, and poultry so you can get exactly what you’re craving. Roasted salmon with grilled vegetables makes for a light and healthy dinner, as does the whole branzino, oven-roasted with lemon, garlic, and fine olive oil. Shrimp oreganata and fillet of sole are always on the menu. If you prefer “turf” you can’t go wrong with the grilled ribeye steak, grilled skirt steak, veal chops, or juicy lamb chops served with gorgonzola polenta.

Chicken Valdostana is their most popular dish, stuffed with prosciutto and mozzarella in a mushroom Marsala sauce. Chicken piccata has a light, lemony butter sauce or you can order your favorite sautéed chicken or veal dish including marsala, francese, saltimbocca, or parmigiana style.

Let Portofino host your business luncheon, bereavement luncheon, or any private event, day or night. Every Tuesday, loyal diners stream in for the all-you-can-eat Pasta Night buffet which starts at 6 p.m. and provides a splendid array of many of Portofino’s excellent pasta, chicken, meat, and fish dishes, while live music plays in the background. Piano music also fills the air on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and that’s a great time to enjoy Portofino’s inventive specials. Sunday Brunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. is a big hit, and call to make your reservations for New Year’s Eve. An all-inclusive evening, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. awaits you. For $130 per person, you’ll lavish in a 6-course meal with an open bar, live music, and a D.J. to ring in the New Year. There’s even complimentary valet parking.

Portofino’s desserts should be on television. Waiters bring out the display tray of tiramisu, zabaglione with fresh berries, cheesecake, and flan, mousse cake and more, so don’t even try to resist. Surrender, along with a coffee, espresso, or cordial and enjoy the rest of the evening chatting and listening to live music.

Portofino is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Don’t forget Tuesday Pasta Night, Sunday Brunch Buffet, or the New Year’s Eve party. Portofino Ristorante is easy to reach with the E or F trains, and there’s free valet parking. Visit Portofino Ristorante in Forest Hills, Italy, where old friends and good food meet. Celebrating 43 years in Forest Hills, and aren’t we lucky!

109-32 Ascan Avenue
Forest Hills  718.261.1239

www.portofinoforesthills.com

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