Walking into this small Italian eatery was kind of like walking onto a stage. The small square dining room leaves you no place to hide. But judging by the smells from the kitchen, the food would certainly make up for the lack of ambiance.
Portobello Restaurant & Pizza is located just south of Four Corners in the same small shopping center as Dunkin' Donuts. The unassuming exterior gives way to a small, bustling dining room, with a view of the kitchen in the rear. Take-out is a popular option here, but the weeknight that we visited was surprisingly busy.
Much to my dismay, I noted a sign as we entered saying this was a BYOB establishment; a fact that was confirmed as we were seated. Of the six or so occupied tables, we were the only ones who had not brought our own wine. This fact actually made me excited to taste the food — obviously, this restaurant has a loyal following.
Skipping the pizzas, which start at $7.25 for a personal cheese pie, we ventured to the appetizer and entrée sections of the menu. Looking past the tempting Italian standards such as Shrimp Scampi ($18.95), Handmade Ravioli ($9.95) and Eggplant Parmigiana ($13.95), we ordered some of the more creative dishes.
My husband chose the specials: a Portobello appetizer ($6.95) and Mussels alla Dino ($16.95). The mushrooms arrived in a heaping portion. Meaty chunks of portobello mushrooms were sautéed in a rich brown sauce then topped with feta cheese and a chiffonade of fresh basil. Although unexpected, this combination was tantalizingly delicious, and we used the complimentary bread to soak up every last bit.
The mussels were neatly arranged amid a pile of linguini, accented by slivers of garlic, tomatoes and more fresh basil. This dish had a light sauce that allowed for the delicate seafood flavors to stand out.
When asked, the friendly waiter told us the portions at Portobello's are large. So I ordered a small salad ($3.50) and skipped the appetizer, which turned out well because my fork kept wandering over to those mushrooms. I chose a veal entrée, Saltimbocca Alla Primavera ($17.95). The clincher in deciding was the artichoke hearts. Medallions of veal were sautéed then covered with prosciutto and cheese. Served atop a bed of spinach and pasta, the dish was accented with artichoke hearts and boiled eggs, which enriched an already buttery sauce. I had plenty leftover for lunch.
Portobello's does a brisk takeout business, offering everything from pizza and wedges to calamari and veal. And although the dining room is small, the friendly, efficient staff and faithful diners make the atmosphere enjoyable. The restaurant welcomes children, offering a small kids' menu featuring ravioli and meatballs, as well as pizza by the slice.
Two things to keep in mind when visiting: bring your own beer or wine (the restaurant supplies the glasses), and bring cash. Portobello's does not accept credit cards or checks, however there is an ATM on site.