Work trips can have their perks. This past week, while I was in Chicago for a few meetings, my team decided to have lunch at a new restaurant on opening day. Pizzeria Portofino is the newest Lettuce Entertain You restaurant and is located down on river level right across from Tiny Tapp & Cafe.
Pizzeria Portofino Interior
The Italian Riviera inspiration for Pizzeria Portofino’s decor is easy to see from the moment you walk in. Bright wood tones and yellow striped accents dominate the long, skinny restaurant. Servers jaunt by in striped shirts and a smattering of faux vines on the ceiling somehow looks tasteful and chic. A long row of booths is accompanied by high and low tables.
Floor-to-table doors open onto a spacious patio with striped seats, big white umbrellas, and tiny lights that burn late into the night. The soft, cushy chairs beckon you to settle in with a bottle of wine while you watch the boats drift by.
Pizzeria Portofino Menu
Italian flavors also dominate the Pizzeria Portofino menu with antipasti, pizza, pasta, foccacia and seafood. My table started with the fried zucchini flowers. Oversized blossoms were stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheese, then fried to light, crisp perfection. The light batter and gooey filling were accompanied by a zesty red sauce that added a layer of tang to the indulgent flavors. A bonus: the dish came with four fritters, but our server offered to add three more so we could have one per person. I love when a restaurant has snacks and can scale appropriately for varied group sizes.
We also tried the Foccacia di Stefano stuffed with Stracchino cheese. Pizzeria Portofino’s focaccio is similar to a pizza, but thinner and more delicate. Salty, savory cheese and thin layers of bread combine for carby perfection. Within minutes it was gone.
Pizza at Pizzeria Portofino
Next, my table went straight for the dough and ordered a variety of pizzas to share. In a town that’s known for thick pizza, Pizzeria Portofino’s pie stands out with delicate, thin, airy crust that makes it all too easy to eat one slice after another.
The Due Funghi topped with roasted mushrooms, red onion, mozzarella, and porcini crema was the table favorite. The combination of the mushrooms and mushroom crema was incredibly rich and savory. Both meat-eaters and vegetarians couldn’t get enough.
Our other favorite was the Burrata Diavolo. Spicy tomato sauce is baked onto this pizza, and then it is topped with imported burrata, spicy-sweet peppers, proscuitto and a sprinkling of arugula after it is removed from the oven. The spicy sauce and peppers provided a nice zip, then the creamy burrata added texture and the proscuitto added salt. All the pizza flavor-texture food groups were covered!
Choose from half- or full-sized pasta dishes, which serve individuals and groups, respectively. I can’t wait to return and try the Spicy Sicilian Lifeguard featuring Maine lobster, little neck clams, mussels, and linguini. I’d also love to sample the Cacio e Quattro Pepe featuring bucatini, peppercorns, and Pecorino cheese.
There is also a selection of charcoal-grilled seafood. The Dorade & Artichoke as well as the Portuguese Octopus caught my eye here.
Drinks are what you’d expect for an Italian Riviera-inspired restaurant with three types of spritzes, negronis, frose, and a large selection of Italian wines. Dessert includes granitas, gelatos, profiteroles, and local seasonal fruit served over ice.
Pizzeria Portofino Hours and Reservations
Pizzeria Portofino is a cashless restaurant, so pack your plastic. It is open from 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Reservations are already looking tight through the end of July, so book now through the Pizzeria Portofino website if you want to visit.