Get ready for an outstanding dining experience with a mixture of old-world family recipes, great atmosphere and service. Portofino’s Italian restaurant, open since September, is a family owned and operated taste of Italy. Owners Benny and Julie Sechi are part of a family that has been sharing their love of food and all things Italia since 1974.
The totally remodeled restaurant and bar has now become a beautiful backdrop for excellent cuisine with rich warm colors, comfortable seating and stained concrete floors. Along with an extensive menu, the relaxing upscale environment has already won over many patrons.
“All our dishes are made from scratch, nothing is pre-made and we take great pride in the flavor of every entrée,” explains Benny. Benny and Julie are hands-on owners, doing everything from greeting guests to managing the kitchen and tending bar. “We want our customers to relax and enjoy the dining experience,” explains Julie. “Our chef may be preparing up to 40 different entrées at a time, so as you wait, we always serve warm garlic rolls while you look at the menu.” Benny is originally from Italy and along with his family, opened the successful Fino’s restaurant in Plano five years ago.
It will take some time to peruse Portofino’s menu beginning with the appetizers and continuing all the way through the tantalizing desserts. Appetizers include bruschetta, caprese (sliced fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, and freshly roasted peppers drizzled with olive oil), and shrimp limone (sauteed shrimp with a white wine lemon sauce).
Guests can either order a side specialty salad like Insulate del Bosco (mixed greens, gorgonzola, pears and almonds, tossed with a port wine vinaigrette) or a larger entrée salad, choosing from chicken Caesar, Greek salad with chicken or an Italian Cobb salad. That’s only the beginning of an array of delicacies, from chicken and veal, seafood and pasta and Portofino’s own hand-tossed pizzas and hot sandwiches.
The restaurant is a crowded scene during the lunch hours, serving specials for $7.99 such as classic pasta dishes including spaghetti, linguine, angel hair, fettuccine, ziti, rigatoni and orcchietta. Home-baked pasta lunch selections include lasagna, manicotti, cannelloni, eggplant parmigiana, and baked cheese ravioli. You can always order half-sized portions for the little ones in your group.
Dinner is another story in itself, with tempting entrées including more chicken and veal options than you can remember or pronounce; chicken piccata, chicken sorrentina, chicken saltimbocca and good old chicken parmigiana and marsala. Veal lovers will be in heaven with options like veal parmigiana, piccata, cacciatore, Bolognese, sorrentina and Genovese.
Let’s not stop there, Portofino’s has seafood too. Owner Julie’s personal favorite is Frutti di Mare which is clams, shrimp and calamari served on a bed of linguini marinara. Tilapia Francese is sweet white fish dipped in egg batter, sauteed with wine sauce. Lobster ravioli might suit your fancy – pasta that is stuffed with lobster and crabmeat, served in a champagne cream sauce. All are hand-made, all excellent!
Benny is always handy to help you out with the menu, and will probably advise you to try a hand-tossed pizza, either a Supreme, Margherita, Veggie Lover’s or Pizza Alfredo. In the mood for a sandwich…try a Stromboli, Calzone, Philly Cheese Steak or Meatball Parmigiana.
You have to save room for the mouthwatering desserts, and maybe order a few for your group to share. The Portofino favorites include Tiramisu, Cheesecake, Chocolate Mousse Cake, Cannelloni and Crème Brule.
The restaurant is perfect for private parties, with a closed off dining room at the back of the restaurant for up to 75 guests. Portofino’s also caters with a special menu for larger parties.
The large renovated bar at the front of the restaurant serves an extensive offering of beers and wines by the bottle or glass to complement any menu offering or a quiet place to enjoy a drink and socialize. “We are constantly changing the wine selections according to the season or specials,” explains Julie. “We have a great selection; there’s something perfect for every wine drinkers taste.”
Marti and Steve Reistetter were enjoying their third visit to the restaurant. “We love the ambiance and atmosphere,” said Marti. The couple, originally from New York, now living in Tyler for the past 8 ½ years, appreciate the good portions, prices and service. “I am part Italian,” said Steve, “and Portofino’s food reminds me of what my mother used to make.”
The Italian music that permeates the restaurant helps set the tone for an experience the Sechis hope will inspire loyal customers. “We are so excited to be part of the Tyler community and to be able to present a new dining opportunity to the area,” said Julie. “We have developed a friendship with the newly renovated Magnuson Hotel, so we recommend guests to try it and they do the same for us.”
Stan and Sharon Sobotka from Bullard have dined at Portofino’s several times since the opening and rave about the customer service and attentive staff. “Prices are right on the mark and the quality of food is excellent,” said Sharon. “We were always welcomed and visited by the owner. We love the atmosphere, it’s like enjoying a little piece of Italy here.”
Portofino’s Italian Restaurant
3320 Troup Highway, Tyler, (903)533-1150
Closed Mondays, Tuesday-Thursday 10:30am-10pm,
Friday and Saturday 10:30am-11pm, Sunday 10:30am-9pm