Considering that upscale Italian restaurant Portofino is hiding in a part of Quiet Center which is rather far from the touristy area around the Alberta, Strelnieku and Antonijas streets, the steady stream of guests bears witness to the fact that the restaurant must be doing quite many things right. I guess that their competitors are pretty relieved that Portofino doesn't occupy some hot spot in Old Town, because this is a serious contender for the Italian restaurant throne.
You only have to be inside Portofino for a few seconds before you know you're in for something special. Before you know it, attentive staff strides to welcome you and offers to take your coat, and then you're taken to a table in the large, open dining room. The restaurant's interior is just beautiful, but the real icing on the cake is the wonderfully shaped, enormous windows. You will have to ignore the apartment building ruins across the street, but if rain or snow is raging outside, I couldn't think of a better place to be.
”IT'S TIME TO BUCKLE UP”
Besides the starters and the desserts, the menu is divided into pasta, risotto, fish and meat dishes and pizza. It is large enough to satisfy whatever craving you might have. After ordering, to get your juices flowing, you are served a nice bread basket, courtesy of the house. When you're properly warmed up, it's time to buckle up, because Portofino's chefs are about to take you on a journey. The duck broth with homemade ravioli is a palate pleaser, but is forced to concede defeat against the lobster and celery cream soup with sea scallop, which is just more and more delicious with every spoonful.
As for the main courses, the homemade lobster ravioli is a tour de force, although for €15 you'd hope for a larger portion. The six small ravioli pieces look more like a starter to me. If you're really hungry, then better to opt for the tasty carbonara, which might not look like a lot of food, but man, does it swell in your belly. The pizzas are fresh and tasty, although they could be a bit bigger. The only slight letdown so far has been the tagliatelline with salmon, cream and, yes, vodka. Certain alcohol blends in really well with Italian pasta sauces, white wine and cognac being the primary ones, but vodka... naah. Not tasty in the glass, not tasty on your salmon.
”PORTOFINO IS A MUST TRY”
When I call Portofino an upscale restaurant, you'd expect the prices to be astronomic. Well, that's actually only 90 % correct. If you stick to pasta or pizza and more simple drinks, you don't have to rent out your grandmother to afford to eat here. However, of course you can go all in and have starters and main dishes for about €30 a piece, or choose a bottle of wine for close to €300 or a bottle of champagne for €400. However, if that kind of money is burning in your pocket, I'd recommend that you buy a used ice cream truck and drive down to Italy for an even more genuine experience.
Simply put, Portofino is a must try. If you don't find it to your liking, then you're probably just not into Italian food.