Dinner at Portofino in Henrietta: It’s Good to Be Wrong, Sometimes

Of course these days, shop owners and restaurateurs are very sensitive to what’s being said on the Internet about their businesses. It makes sense: my wife and I almost never go out to a new place without first checking RocWiki.org for the latest reviews from the users there. It’s a great resource, but like many other websites, can make or break a business’s future.

Well, the new owner of Portofino in Henrietta saw a piece I’d done on this site swearing off on ever going back to that building after the lousy service we got when it used to be called Portobello. I’d never had such lousy service and really just didn’t feel like giving this new owner a chance. But that was before he got a hold of me and asked me to come out and give it one shot. My wife and I decided to go last night and I’m glad I did.

The first thing that jumped out at me when we got in the building was that the light fixtures were changed to a more modern style. That’s good because the lighting was way too dark before. They also lost the diner style, pack ’em in till they can’t lift their forks style of seating. There’s a few less tables now and lots more elbow room in the dining room.

The owner, Dominick Morano, was standing by the door, in front of the bar, where he was to greet all the customers that entered the restaurant. We always appreciate an owner who takes such a hands on approach to his customers. He got us a couple of choice wine selections – I didn’t catch the names, but I had a nice Sicilian red and Sarah had a Riesling – and the waiter brought us water and bread. Our waiter, by the way, also worked at his family’s restaurant in the city; a restaurant run by and worked in by restaurateurs, that’s nice! Already, the service was better than last time.

And when we got the food, we were quite happy. I got a pasta dish with pesto, grilled asparagus and shrimp. Sarah got chicken with white wine, garlic, mustard and pink peppercorns. Both dishes were rich with flavour, but not overly heavy, which is a nice rarity in Italian dining in Rochester. Pesto sauces tend to be cream-based, but this one was oil based and so didn’t hang out all night on the palate. Sarah and I both love pink peppercorns, and they make for a really amazing, savory-bitter punch at the end of a mouthful. Her chicken was cooked perfectly, too.

We split a desert, tiramisu, and I had a coffee. Those of you who read my website when I regularly wrote reviews for restaurants know that coffee was a double-rated, all-important determining factor for my reviews. This was just a delicious Italian roast coffee, simple and tasty.

So, I know what you’re thinking: if the owner knew you were coming, then of course you got the best food. Well, that’s only partially true. You can’t fake good food and you can’t suddenly make your chef talented because someone new is in the dining room. All you can do is maybe spruce up what you have. The place didn’t look any different, the chefs are the same, the menu is the same as it would be if anyone else walked in. This is a quality restaurant, with or without my presence.

So go check it out. And have the tiramisu, it’s amazing.