By Sandra Zunino
At Portofino Ristorante Italiano in downtown Easton, you can have it all: authentic Italian cuisine, a quaint romantic atmosphere and unsurpassed service for an affordable price.
Restaurateur Rosario Di Pasquale opened Portofino in 2002, naming the establishment after his hometown in Italy known as the “gem of the Riviera”. While Rosario utilizes his 30 years of experience working in first-class restaurants in Italy, England, the U.S. and on luxury cruise lines, he says his wife Marie is the reason for Portofino’s popularity.
“We follow her leadership,” he says. “She is the reason why we are successful.” An entity behind the scenes, Marie brainstorms and handles managerial aspects of the business. Her decorating talents inspired Portofino’s recent interior facelift including deep crimson walls contrasting bright white wainscot and new hardwood floors.
“She comes up with the ideas and specials,” says Rosario. “We discuss them and I execute them.” A family-owned business, the Di Pasquale’s two children Alex, 22, and Laura, 15, help regularly in the restaurant as well.
Portofino’s 95 percent repeat customer base; however, is due to Rosario’s culinary talent coupled with his desire to deliver quality and value. Recently revamping the menu so diners can still enjoy a fine meal in current economic times, entrées run from $15.95 for pasta specials to $25 for main courses.
With heaping portions accompanied by fresh salads and garlic bread, no one is leaving Portofino’s hungry. Two of Portofino’s signature dishes are Zuppa di pesca alla Portofino, with shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels in a garlic herb cream sauce served over linguine, and Melanzane al Parmiagiana, a breaded eggplant dish topped with melted mozzarella and marinara served over linguine.
Portofino’s offers an assortment of fine wines served by the glass or bottle, including a Pinot Grigio and Brunello from Italy and a better-known California Chardonnay and Merlot. For about $7, customers receive a generous eight ounces per glass. Mixed drinks are available as well.
Portofino’s wait staff is not only educated to recommend entrée-wine pairing, but is also devoted to providing excellent customer service. Rosario often personally greets restaurant patrons as well. “Service is what makes you or breaks you,” he insists. “The wait staff must be attentive.”
Vigilant about passing value on to his customers, Rosario pays close attention to market prices on delicacies such as fresh Ahi tuna, or sea bass. “People do not want to blow a bunch of money,” he says, “but they want quality, quantity and ambiance and everything else.”
Flickering candlelight, linen-draped tables and sparkling glassware add as much to Portofino’s romantic atmosphere as its intimate seating arrangement where patrons can enjoy conversation without feeling crowded. In addition to its cozy dining room, customers can also enjoy dining al fresco at tables in front of the restaurant. The lower-level dining room offers privacy for special occasions such as rehearsal diners, parties and business functions.
Portofino’s is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Customers who mention The UPDATE will receive a free glass of wine this month. Reservations, while not required, will guarantee a table at Portofino Ristorante Italiano. For more information, or to view the menu and wine list, visit www.portofinoeaston.com or call 410-770-9200.