IL Porto Restaurant – Celebrating 50 Years!
By the Gastronomes
Last month one of Old Town’s oldest and most Iconic restaurants celebrated its Golden anniversary. In this day and age when restaurants seem to come and go, it is amazing when you hear of one that has remained true to itself for 50 years.
Il Porto is a restaurant that shows off the unique architecture of this town. Unlike newer and remodeled restaurants, Il Porto shows glimpses of the past history of the building. The building has been a brothel, butcher shop, artist’s studio, speak easy and even a “repair” shop as a cover for a Nazi radio network. If the walls could only talk.
In 1973, Mr. “Ray” Giovannoni opened IL Porto. Shortly after, he opened the Fish Market at the other end of the 100 block and began his journey on becoming an icon in the local restaurant community. Today, current owners Akbar and Wali Zadran have kept Il Porto in the spotlight and the restaurant has maintained its charm and reputation for good food.
As we were dining on this unusually warm April evening, Akbar walked over to talk with us. I had first met Akbar and Wali when they took the restaurant over many years ago. As it is in Old Town, it is always good to see old friends. We reminisced about the old days and spoke of former Ragtime piano player Johnny Maddox and all of the entertainment that abounded in the 100 block of King back then.
Over the years IL Porto Restaurant has developed a reputation of fresh food daily. The pasta is made from scratch every day. Their menu is too extensive to talk about here so I would recommend that you check out it out online and choose accordingly. With the aforementioned “fresh pasta”, I can assure that they offer many different selections of pasta, either as an entree or to serve as a side dish. In addition to their regular menu, daily and weekly specials are available.
It was a beautiful night so we decided to dine al fresco but we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that it was a hard choice since the interior of this restaurant is beautiful. Will have to go back on a bad weather day!
We started off with vodka gimlets to whet our appetites and enjoyed them with the warm bread that is served with the meal. After consuming the warm bread, we had to pass on an appetizer and went straight to our entrees.
As I am a veal fanatic, I ordered the Scaloppine al Marsala ($37.95) for my dinner. This was milk fed veal scaloppini and mushrooms sauteed in a Marsala wine sauce served on a bed of pasta. The portion was large and very satisfying with a nice meld of flavors. The other half stuck to her tried and true lasagna ($24.95). She says that the lasagna in an Italian restaurant tells you a lot about it. Il Porto more than passed her “test”. The meat sauce exceeded her expectations by a long shot and the layers of noodles and cheeses was a solid match. She was warned that the portion is large so you know that over half of it went home with us that night. I can attest to the fact that it travels well since I treated myself to the leftover over the weekend.
We each had a glass of Chianti recommended by our waiter and it complimented both dishes quite well. If you aren’t a fan of Chianti, there is a nice wine list available that covers the gamut.
We ended our meal with another favorite – Spumoni Bomba. We have loved this concoction of strawberry, pistachio and chocolate gelato formed into a ball and coated with chocolate since we had our first one in the early 90’s. While it can be somewhat challenging to eat, the staff at Il Porto cut the chocolate ball in half and garnished the halves with whipped cream. Treat yourself!!
Someone once said that “the more things change, the more they remain the same.” This is a truism for IL Porto Restaurant. I have been a fan of this restaurant since I came to Old Town in 1977. Back then there were not nearly as many choices for dining as today, however, IL Porto has stood the test of time. Adjusting to new techniques, attitudes and customer wishes, IL Porto has kept pace with change while staying true to their traditional restaurant values and quality. Stop in today and dine al fresco, on either floor of the restaurant or enjoy a fine cocktail upstairs at the intimate bar. Buon Appetito!
Il Porto Italian Ristorante
121 King Street
Old Town Alexandria