If you're not sure what you have a taste for when you walk in the door of Portobello Cafe, it'll probably take you awhile to decide. The dinner menu challenges timid eaters with more than 75 menu items, predominantly Italian-style dishes such as veal saltimbocca and rosemary-crusted rack of lamb. There are some playfully international dishes as well, such as Italian egg rolls stuffed with broccoli rabe and parmesan risotto. Folks can always leave the decisions up to the professionals, however, with prix fixe dinners. During the day there's an equally extensive lunch menu to ensure that none of the meals think the chef is playing favorites.
In the kitchen at Gaetano's Grill, cooks slide well-seasoned pizzas out of a brick oven and put the finishing touches on burgers made with prime sirloin, putting together feasts of Italian and American favorites. Like a ball gown made out of a sleeping bag, the surroundings are simultaneously fancy and comfortable: the Uptown Lounge rings with cheers and the sounds of karaoke and football shown on HDTV, and the sun-filled patio is filled with the scents of prosciutto-stuffed pollo novella and savory New York Strip steak. Guests sip frosty draft beers as they dig their forks into hearty baked ziti and penne vodka or chow down on Bronx-style pizzas topped with fresh garlic, pepperoni, and meatballs.
For close to two decades, the chefs at Pasta Cucina have used tried-and-true recipes as the blueprints for their classic Italian dishes. Manager Mario Espana and his team make bellies feel like they’re part of the family with comforting plates of veal parmigiana, fettuccine carbonara with imported prosciutto, and traditional ravioli prepared with a modern twist of ingredients, including jalapeños and brandy cream sauce. Exposed-brick accents and paintings depicting rustic Italian scenery whisk diners to the Old World and create an environment more inviting than a cliff leading to a giant pile of pillows.
The menu at Jerry’s Brick Oven Pizza reads more like a roster of Italy’s most revered dishes. Of course, the flames from a brick oven graze the bottom of pizzas topped with pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, peppers, onions, tomatoes, or fresh garlic. But the selection also includes minestrone soup, chicken marsala, veal parmigiana, calzones, and homemade manicotti. The staff even pipes cream into fresh cannolis, providing a sweet finish to any entrée.
The cooks at Mediterraneo craft pizza, seafood, pasta, and beef dishes inspired by the myriad regions of Italy. Limber up your taste buds with antipasti such as fried calamari or carpaccio, a serving of thinly sliced filet mignon crowned with arugula and parmesan. A relay team of mozzarella, fontina, parmesan, and gorgonzola race across a savory track in the quattro formaggi pizza. The costata di maiale pairs a pan-seared pork chop with vinegar peppers and a balsamic reduction, and in the cioppino's plum-tomato sauce drenches a mélange of sole, shrimp, clams, linguine, and scallops. Burning wall sconces alight Mediterraneo's distressed walls, and potted plants spill over columns and arches to high-five vegetables that made it into signature dishes.
Sal's soothes grumbling hunger tubs with its eclectic entourage of edibles, including pizza, specialty pies, calzones, seafood, and other Italian favorites. Anchor incisors on the buffalo-chicken pizza's mozzarella shores ($16/small, $18/large), or tune taste knobs to the egg-battered frequencies of the eggplant parmigiana, which dons a jaunty dressing of mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce ($13.50). Patrons of the noodled arts can commission a meal from Sal's pasta offerings, and garden grubbers can slip into some serious leafage with a bevy of salad selections.