Pizzeria Portofino opens on Chicago River serving up pizza, pasta and grilled seafood
“This is the prize,” said executive chef Doug Psaltis. “It’s the funnest project I’ve been involved with, and so personal in many ways.”
Fun seems to be the operative word at Pizzeria Portofino, which quietly opened Monday (reservations, via Tock, are now live) at 317 N. Clark St.
The latest restaurant from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Pizzeria Portofino features sophisticated pizzas, pastas in full and half portions, some charcoal-grilled fish and shellfish and — what is likely the big draw — a large outdoor terrace overlooking the Chicago River.
“It’s a great little recluse in River North,” Psaltis said. “Taking the stairway down from street level is like climbing down a seaside hill; it’s a decompression from the city. The positioning is absolutely fantastic.”
Psaltis, who oversees a number of Lettuce concepts (including both RPM Italian and RPM Steak), listed the Due Funghi (with porcini crema) and Piccante Verde (with pepperoncini) pizzas among his favorites. But he was most enthusiastic about the cheese-stuffed Focaccia di Stefano.
“It’s made with a very delicate Ligurian dough,” he said. “The Stracchino cheese is like an Italian cream cheese on steroids, with a little acidity and a delicate, fresh raw milk flavor. It’s one of the lightest, crispiest focaccia we’ve ever made; so much so, we struggled with the word. People hear ‘focaccia’ and they think spongy, and this is almost paper-thin.”
This is one of three projects Lettuce plans for the building. At street level, there will be a private-event space, opening in September. October should see the debut of RPM on the Water, a seafood-focused restaurant that will include steaks from the RPM Steak menu. Psaltis said the charcoaled seafood dishes on Pizzeria Portofino’s menu are essentially a “sneak peek” at what RPM on the Water has planned.
“Growing up in New York, pizza and bagels were a big part of my childhood,” Psaltis said. “There’s nothing more magical than making dough, stretching it by hand and watching it cook. It’s a great way for me to get my hands dirty and get back to basics.”
Pizzeria Portofino is open for lunch and dinner daily. Breakfast and Sunday brunch hours will be added later.