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We believe that whenever a restaurant can stay open and thrive for 20+ years in Charlotte, that they are clearly doing something right. And that seems to be the case for Portofinos which opened its first restaurant on Eastway Drive in 1996.

Started by two childhood friends from their days in Naples, Italy, they both immigrated to the US with their respective families at an early age. Giosue (Josh) and his family moved north while Luigi (Gino) & his family moved south. Then years later, Josh and Gino reconnected after both coincidentally had already spent several years in the restaurant industry. They decided to work together and opened that first Portofinos location. After being well-received, the men have since opened three more locations: one on Park Road near Selwyn Ave, another in the Red Stone development in Indian Land, and the other in the Arboretum on Providence Road.

Despite being here for 24 years, we have never eaten there. While they are known for their family-friendly atmosphere and more casual feel, Portofinos consistently ranks in top 10-12 Italian restaurants in Charlotte - most recently by Charlotte Agenda.

While we tend to prefer some of its competitors such as Mama Ricotta’s & Toscana, after reading the Agenda article, we decided that we had to try Portofinos at least once. So we met our friends, David & Kelly at the Arboretum location. Located in a pretty small space, there’s not a ton of seating. The atmosphere is pretty casual and might lead some to the conclusion that the food is not good. However, that’s rarely a good indicator for Italian restaurants - particularly in places like Little Italy in Manhattan or the Bronx.

They only serve beer and wine which is unusual for CHarlotte restaurants, but they had a good selection of both - especially the wine. The menus have lots to choose from many pasta dishes to several chicken or veal dishes as well. Beth and Kelly, who tend to eat super healthy both ordered grilled salmon on a bed of spinach. They both thought the salmon was a good cut and cooked properly. And the beds of spinach, sauteed with a generous amount of garlic, were very plentiful. David got the chicken parmigiana which was battered in a flour/egg mixture topped with cheese & tomato sauce. I should have gotten my all time favorite, the veal saltimbocca alla romano which is sauteed in white wine/butter, topped with prosciutto & mozzarella cheese and served with your choice of pasta. Instead, I decided to try the penne puttanesca sauteed with mushrooms, tomatoes, capers, & olives with a marinara sauce.

David devoured his parmigiana which was a pretty good indicator that he liked it. My dish was just ok. The pasta was either not freshly made or possibly store-bought. The puttanesca sauce didn't have much flavor either. I really should have gotten the saltimbocca. So, will we go back to Portofinos? Not likely, but we are glad that we went. If we are want a family-freiendly Italian place in the future, Mama Ricotta’s is our go-to. Or if it’s for a date night or with another couple, Toscana is our first choice. For now though, we qant to try a few of the other places mentioned in the Agenda article. Next up this month is The Flour Shop. It’s considered one of the best restaurants in Charlotte and has long been on our lists of places to check out. We will plan to write about our experience in our December newsletter!

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