The occasion was my grandma’s 90th birthday and the scene was Il Portico Ristorante in the small town of Tappan, NY. The cousins (save one) were in attendance, the boomer generation was in full force, and, of course, the guest of honor beamed among her friends. It was a fantastic afternoon of memories, tributes, and good humor, as only a grandma could inspire.
But what about the food? Did it live up to the occasion or dampen the celebration? The answer was decidedly mixed.
Appetizer – Grilled Shrimp with Italian White Bean Salad
We had a choice from among four appetizers, including this one, a tomato & mozzarella salad, a scallop entree and beef carpaggio. I didn’t see the carpaggio, but the scallops looked great. The tomato & mozzarella salad was a little underwhelming (this dish is one of my favorites but should be reserved for the late summer when beefsteak tomatoes are at their peak) and my plate was just ok. The shrimp were a little tough, but the beans were comfortably filling.
Entree – Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Peas and Prosciutto in a Marsala Cream Sauce
I can’t remember the other entrees in detail, but there was a salmon, a chicken and something else. I went with the pasta (as I usually do at Italian restaurants) and was slightly disappointed. The gnocchi had the right consistency but the flavors, which should have really worked together, didn’t come together the way I was expecting. I hate to say it, but the dish was fairly bland; I had to add plenty of salt and pepper, even on top of the sprinkle of Parmesan. With such an all-star list of agreeable ingredients, this should have been a more satisfying dish. A bit more spice might have helped.
Dessert – Midnight Chocolate Cake & Chocolate Mousse Pie
Oh. My. God. The chocolate cake (if you even want to call it that, considering it tasted like a slice of dark chocolate itself) was amazing. I’m not sure if they made the desserts on premises, but kudos to whomever put that concoction together. Naturally, my opinion is biased since I’m a (not interested in recovering) chocoholic, but this was one of the better heart-stopping artery-cloggers I’ve had in a while. On the other side of the plate was a slice of grandma’s birthday cake, which just couldn’t stand up, literally. While structurally deficient, the chocolate mousse was fluffy, light and sweet. A nice complement to the sinful dark stuff.
Other desserts included a raspberry tort, a lemon cheesecake and some other things that were not chocolate.
In summary, the restaurant has work to do on some food elements, but I’d definitely go again. The wine was great, the service was awesome, and you can’t beat the small town ambiance. Seek it out if you can.