By: Serita Stevens

Nestled in the heart of downtown, a little bit of Italy can be had at the pleasant restaurant  Portofino Cucina Italiana.   Located at 464 S Main Street, at the cross street of 5th Ave, and just minutes from the 110 exit, this Italian eatery, run by Diego Ortoli,  brings homemade pasta and other hand designed delicacies from his native Naples.  The extensive wine list, almost solely from Italy, is to be admired.

Vegetarians and those on a gluten free diet can eat here without worry as they have an extensive menu available for both.

The jazz musician, who plays twice a week, serenaded us as we dined.  While they tell us that their Bruschetta de Pomodoro is one of their specialty appetizers, I chose the Insalata di Spinaci,Arugola e Pesto (Baby Spinach, arugula, sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts tossed with pesto sauce and parmesan cheese) while my partner had the Carpaccio (thin slices of filet mignon marinated with olive oil and lemon and topped with arugula, parmesan cheese and shaved fennel.)

The Picata Bread, soft textured and cake like, was herb laced and delicious with the olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Our entees included Pollo alla Piccata (Chicken breast sautéed with garlic, parsley, capers and artichoke hearts in a lemon white wine sauce) and the Salmone Ripieno al Pesto (Atlantic salmon on a bed of spinach, topped with pesto sauce.) Each dish came with homemade whipped mashed potatoes that melted in your mouth.

While I was anxious to try the homemade Tiramisu cake, I instead opted for one of the specialties Affogato da Café ( Ice cream surrounded by espresso and topped with whipped cream) and the homemade Berry Cheesecake.

Moderately priced for dinner, the amount and taste of the food well equals the price.  The restaurant is open 11:30 am -2:30 pm for lunches Monday-Friday and seven days a week for dinner from 5-10 pm.  Lunch specials, especially attractive to those working in the neighborhood, can be had for an average of $7.99.  Specials for lunch include Eggplant Parmigiana, Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken Piccata and Atlantic Salmon as well as homemade Lentil and Creamy Broccoli Soup.

The restaurant is dog friendly and has a lovely patio where you can sit with your canine friend.

Parking is the only problem that I saw as the neighborhood (within a block) is marginal and you might well consider parking in one of the lots across the street.

In addition, the eatery does a brisk business in delivery (free all over the downtown area) and catering to parties and events.   For information, or reservations call 213 239 9019 or go on line to