July 21, 2008

Portofino Italian Restaurant

By Angele Sionna

701 S. Main St., Roswell, NM
(no menu online)

The Food (taste/flavor/quality of food & drinks)
>>>>>= always great, unique, and flavorful no matter where you’re from

The Atmosphere (environment, wait staff, comfortableness)
xxx= good but could be improved

Price (what to generally expect to pay per person per entree)
$$ = $10

Value (what you get for your money)
***** = superb -lots of quality/taste for what you pay

Here’s a newsflash for you: Roswell, New Mexico has something more than alien mythology to lure in tourists. They have a great Italian restaurant! If you told me that the best Italian food that I would find in the southwestern US would be in Roswell, of all places, I would have thought you were crazy. And then I would have to go to this intriguing place and measure its goodness myself. I recommend you hit the road for Roswell and discover Portofino for yourself.

I went to Portofino on a recent road trip where we stopped for one night in Roswell. (To read about the road trip and other Roswell recommendations, click HERE.) I was in the mood for Italian but not feeling hopeful, as I only saw one review of Portofino on Trip Advisor. There was another Italian joint mentioned as well, but it was a chain, so I wasn’t interested. I was really feeling Italian-flavored cravings, so I decided to ask the nice woman who checked me out with my stereotypical alien tourist t-shirt if she could recommend a place to eat for Italian. She mentioned she heard Portofino was great but had yet to go there.

That was enough for us, as we were tired from our day-long drive, hungry and ready for dinner. We drove a few blocks south of downtown and almost missed Portofino. It’s in a rather non-descript building on Main Street on the left (if going there from the UFO museum and such downtown). I had my doubts, so I went in to grab a to go menu to browse the selections. Right when I opened the door, I knew this is where we’d be dining that night. The aroma was superb. You could tell someone was back in the kitchen making lots of custom dishes. I went back out to the car, informed my family to hurry up, and down we sat.

Boy, did I make the right call! It was even better than my “find” at the souvenir shop (a weird touristy t-shirt with a picture of an alien holding an X-Files DVD. Classic!). I must have been lucky that night because Portofino also delivered with the best Italian food I’ve had since moving from Chicago... at really decent prices too.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="230" caption="Portofino's bread with dipping sauce"][/caption]

While you browse the menu trying to pick just one entrée, the waitress serves up these little triangles of bread with olive oil for dipping. The bread is very unique and almost tastes like a cross between biscuits and classic Italian country bread. My two year old kept gobbling them down and the waitress kept bringing more baskets with a smile. Nice service.

For a main course, I finally settled on the Pasta Primavera ($8.95), though there were so many that looked good. It was served with all fresh vegetables in a thin tomato sauce over angel hair pasta. You could tell this dish was 100% homemade. It was plenty to share with my daughter as well.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="230" caption="Portofino's Lobster Ravioli"]Portofinos Lobster Ravioli[/caption]

My husband got the Lobster Ravioli ($12.95). I really wanted to order that too, but I decided we needed to try more than one dish. Glad we did because both were great! The lobster ravioli is served in a tomato cream sauce and not too rich and not at all fishy smelling or tasting. (A problem some other Italian restaurants can’t seem to overcome on this dish.) But not Portofino. Theirs was perfect. The sauce was so good, my husband finished off the breadbasket soaking up every last drop of that sauce. We hadn’t enjoyed a lobster ravioli dish that much since dining at Sapori Trattoria in Chicago. (If you’re ever in Chicago, it’s worth the trouble leaving the tourist areas for that little gem of a restaurant as well. Sapori is my favorite restaurant in the entire world. No exaggeration.)

I have to say, as you can probably already tell, I was so impressed by this local joint. Decent prices, high quality food, and quick friendly service. A MUST visit! I wish this place was in my hometown! Now you have one more reason (besides checking out all the alien stuff) to visit Roswell.

For more photos of Portofino click HERE.


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