Summers in Chicago can be scorchers. Thankfully, the team from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises has added another member to its exponentially growing empire with the opening of Pizzeria Portofino on N. Clark Street along the Chicago River.
Designed by the Rockwell Group, the rustic space is bedecked with a whitewashed exposed wood ceiling and limestone. At the center of the restaurant lies a bar with panoramic views of the river. This is the first part of a three-phase project by LEYE—RPM Events on the Water is slated to open in September while RPM on the Water will open in early winter.
Helmed by executive chef Doug Psaltis—a LEYE vet who oversees RPM Italian and RPM Steak, among others—the cuisine at Pizzeria Portofino is exactly what you'd expect, doling out pizzas and pastas inspired by the Italian riviera. Guests can start the evening with antipasti like burrata and green olives, fried zucchini flowers (’tis the season, after all) and meatball Parmigiana before moving onto mains. Highlighted hand-stretched pizzas, all made with stone-ground grains local to the Midwest, include Pugliese with crumbled fennel sausage, pickled peppers, rapini and Pecorino; and Lo Sfincione, topped with jalapeños, spicy coppa, anchovies and aged Provolone. Pastas come in full or half portions—get your fix via the spicy Sicilian lifeguard with Maine lobster, Little Neck clams and mussels or the cacio e quattro pepe, a take on the Roman original but featuring four types of cracked peppercorns.
“Pizzeria Portofino is the beginning of our entire riverfront project,” says Psaltis. “It gives us the opportunity to work a bit more simply with simple ingredients—amazing raw vegetable antipasti, hand-stretched pizzas and cooking fish over live charcoal. We're also excited to introduce another side of the RPM brand, one that is more casual and vested in fun where you can let your hair down—and have a spritz or three—but still expect the same caliber of ingredients and service.”
Handy boat slips are available for docking for visiting guests; a special “marina menu” is also available for those who want to keep their party on the water. The “Daysailer” features antipasti, pesto Genovese pasta, rigatoni all’Amatriciana, your choice of two pizzas and profiteroles for dessert, and serves four to seven people for a cool $250. The “Yacht,” which serves eight to 12 people, is available for $400, and includes a custom cooler tote. Looking to booze it up? The marina menu includes all the necessities from bubbles and wines to a three-pound bag of ice and to-go cups. “We have only been open a couple of days and already people are arriving with their boats and taking packages of food and drinks out to enjoy,” adds Psaltis.
Pizzeria Portofino is located at 317 N. Clark Street and open for lunch and dinner from 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (or later), and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. (or later).
Hero image courtesy of Pizzeria Portofino/Facebook.