Grazie Portofino! Another Bucket List Item Complete

Welcome to Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria. Come on in and join Darren and I for our Saturday night dinner at the best Italian restaurant this side of the pond. The city of Portofino is on the coast of Northern Italy and it is where food, wine, and “la dolce vita” are a way of living.  When you dine with Portofino’s, they bring the good life to you. From their friendly staff to their authentic Italian recipes, we felt at home at Portofino’s. Number 3 on this year’s bucket list was to find the best Italian restaurant, outside of Italy of course, and the search is over with Portofino’s Ristorante Italiano e Pizzeria.

The restaurant is staffed by attentive servers who treat you like family. We were greeted at the door by Danielle, a young college student who is working to pay for her tuition. She’s extremely personable and down-to-earth, and she carried on a conversation with us as if we’d known her her entire life. We learned about her recent move to Charlotte, her family, and her studies. She admired Athena and chatted about being an aunt. All the while, she continued to do her job with ease. Personality bubbled out of her like a recently popped bottle of champagne. Then there is Cecilia who won me over by continuously bringing me fresh, moist loaves of bread. People say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but they haven’t met me. I fell in love with Darren the first night he invited me to his house for dinner. Well, if Cecilia is single, Athena might be getting a new parent. “Oh, Cecilia, I’m down on my knees, I’m begging you please to come home.” and don’t forget the endless loaves of bread and continuously flowing soda. Finally, Martino, the assistant manager, with his South American accent and desire to please, knew every item on the menu inside and out. He offered suggestions, at our request, and made his way around the restaurant making sure everything was running smoothly. Between the greeters, floor staff, and Martino, every guest felt relaxed and enjoyed their meal to the fullest.

Now, for the food… oh their authentic Italian recipes and fresh, seasonal, local items – I ate so much I could have slept under the table. We both started with the never-ending bread that I mentioned above and a house salad. If any of you know me, you know that I’m a burger, McDonald’s specifically, kind of gal; salads are not my thing, but the salad included a creamy tomato dressing that made salad good. Mixed with basil, oil, and garlic, the flavor sprinkled all over the plate like candy. We opted for different main courses. Darren had the daily special – Mahi Mahi and Shrimp. The pesto cream sauce combined with the Mahi Mahi was a perfect blend of meat and sauce. Each noddle absorbed flavor and would definitely have stuck to the wall if thrown (they were cooked well if you’ve never heard that saying) making it an accomplished pasta dish. I went for my usual Italian favorite of Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. I’m still wondering how they made the sauce so creamy and rich. I dread to think about how many calories it must have had; I think #9 on my bucket list went out the window this evening. We finished off the meal by sharing three desserts: Tiramisu, Chocolate Lava Cake, and Nutella Cheesecake. (Again, please disregard #9 on the list for this evening.) Darren drooled more than Athena over the Nutella Cheesecake while the Chocolate Lava Cake with ice cream on top hit the spot for me. We both love to eat, but we out did ourselves this time. I seriously considered sleeping under one of the tables. I don’t think anyone would have noticed. I could have picked one in the corner to be considerate. Athena was already asleep in her stroller. We could have had nap time together.

The Portofino atmosphere is not without its merit as well. Families filled the restaurant and chatted across tables, children joined the adults around the table and peeked over at Athena as she slept. It was like being in a huge house with extended family all around. Rather than worrying about bringing a newborn, I felt like she was part of the experience.

I was transported back to Italy this evening and I will be making the journey regularly. Grazie Portofino, arrivederci a presto!

77 thoughts on “Grazie Portofino! Another Bucket List Item Complete

  1. I was just about to type this comment entirely in Italian just now from reading and looking at the photos. It reminds me of the dishes that my nonna tells me about and shows me recipes and of what we cook here at home. Plus, having the language as second nature is a little difficult to allmost NOT respond to something like this in Italian. But above all, simply delicious!


  2. Any restaurant with an assistant manager called Martino must be good! I’m now going to get something to eat. Thanks for getting my juices going Lesley.


  3. Lesley, as I am kinda new to WordPress, I do not know if there is a better way to get in touch with you, but I’d like to thank you for being one of my very first readers! You do not know how much joy you brought me when I saw my first like from you, and I’d like to say thank you. Like you, I talk about the things I love the most, so reading your adventures is something I look forward to in my reader constantly. You’re articles are engaging and exciting, not to mention informative as well, and you earned my follow. Again, thank you for your support!

    P.S. That cheesecake looked unbelievable! I’m jealous! 🙂


      • Thanks for the pro tip! I’ll see if I can make that improvement in my new post. And obviously, I love football as well, so shoot your opinions or comments my way anytime you like, I’d love to talk about it.


  4. Lesley, it’s been a long time since I checked in on you — congratulations on the birth of your daughter! I see you’ve wasted no time in getting her travelling — that’s wonderful.
    I love Italian food, and your description of dinner has my stomach rumbling (it’s only 7:30 am here) right now my big passion is for brick oven-fired thin crust pizza. Can’t get enough of it. Was wonderful to read about your travels again.


  5. My wife and were just in Northern Italy (Torino, San Mineato, Parma, Bologna, Florence, Cuneo). This post was really nice to read and reinforced memories of our trip. Will put this place on my list next time we’re in Charlotte.


  6. I’m going to Italy in two months. Maybe I’ll stop by this place if possible. Will I get a discount if I mention your name? lol jk. Looks really tasty! 🙂


  7. Whoa–that’s an expensive place, dude. 7.25 euro for bruschetta? That’s about $10 for bits of toast with tomato. The food does look tasty, though and I bet Portofino is wonderful.


  8. OMG–I swear I could taste the food right off the pictures! =D I’ve always loved Italian food, and they made it all look soooo beautiful as well–such that you almost don’t want to eat it but put it on a shelf as a decoration. Wow! A great experience you all had!

    Ohhh, and Thank You for liking my blog! It really did feel like I was living in a circus back then. But believe it or not, despite all that chaos, I truly miss just about every one of them–to this day! Right down to even the frogs! I guess I truly am an animal-person.

    Brightest Blessings to you & yours. Later! 🙂


  9. Wow, really liked the idea of your blog! Nice post! I simply love italian desserts, but even though my family is italian, they don’t have many dessert recipes…


  10. Now you’re talking my language……food! Only a few more months and I’m back in my lovely country of Italy. Thank you so much for the reminder of what’ll be waiting for me. Grazie!


  11. So I got sucked into those Versatile Blogger Awards and nominated you on my blog, feel free to check it out or ignore, I just like taking the chance to share blogs I enjoy reading, like yours! 🙂


  12. I seriously am wanting to get in my car and drive the 3000 PLUS miles it takes me to get to Portfino’s. It looks absolutely DELIGHTFUL!


  13. Portofino’s is delicious! I’ve been there several times. My all-time fav Italian restaurant in town is Villa Antonia’s though – it might be more of a romantic date nite place though! They have 2 locations – the one on South Blvd looks weird because of it’s location, but when you walk inside, you forget you are on South Blvd. The other location is a bit more posh in the Ballanytne area. So when you’ve recovered from your Italian food coma..give it a whirl!


  14. Looks so delicious! If I’m ever in the area…will have to check it out. Also, thanks for stopping by and liking my post. You have an inspirational blog and it’s awesome how it inspires others too. Cheers!


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