Vicki Briganti – WWJ-TV Writer / Producer / Editor

Few moments measure up to sitting outside on a deck by the water with your friends. It’s one of the reasons people live in Michigan: our beautiful summers. My friend Lisa was back in town for the weekend from Pittsburgh and that’s exactly what we intended to do at Portofino Italian Restaurant and Banquet Facility in Wyandotte. Ah, relax by the river. Drink a glass of wine. Catch up. Then…it rained. They closed the patio. We had to sit inside.

At least we could see the Detroit River from our new table. Our friendly waiter, Levy, provided attentive service. When Matt, a mutual friend from high school, joined us for dinner, Levy was gracious enough to take our picture. He said, “Do you like this one?” I laughed and said, “Keep taking them until we look younger!”

Portofino Wyandotte

Lisa Fuciarelli, Vicki Briganti, and Matt Tabaczynski at Portofino (credit: Vicki Briganti)

I ordered the asiago stuffed gnocchi with pesto cream sauce, toasted pine nuts, and blackened chicken for $16.95. Too salty. Heavy on the pesto. I much preferred the chicken picatta mixed with angel hair pasta, capers, and artichoke hearts in a lemon butter and white wine sauce. I’ve enjoyed that dish at Portofino before for the same price. I went off the menu to create that dish, and the chef did not disappoint.

Lisa had “two lovely glasses” of house pinot grigio. She ordered the blackened salmon salad for $12.95. “Stingy on the dried cherries,” she said. “I eat a lot of salads. It wasn’t particularly blackened or spicy, so I’m missing the whole New Orleans thing, but it was okay.”

Matt got the 7 oz. filet mignon for $25. “The filet was excellent,” said Matt. “But that was a helluva wad of dry mashed potatoes.”

Lisa misses Michigan but plans to stay in Pittsburgh. She says it’s like Italy with better bathrooms. I went to visit her in Pittsburgh two years ago. The bridges. The tunnels. The streets change names while you’re driving. Then they dead-end, or curve, or plummet down a steep hill. I wouldn’t recommend a novice driver trying to negotiate roads in Pittsburgh. Or Rome for that matter. Ah…now I understand her reference to Italy.

I was in Pittsburgh in May of 2009 when the Red Wings played the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Finals. I said, “Ya know what’ll be really fun? Let’s watch the game at a bar and root for Detroit!” Lisa gave me a cold, hard look and said, “Did you come to Pittsburgh to get killed?” She wasn’t even kidding. I guess her new town takes their sports teams as seriously as her hometown. She’s had to endure comments such as: “You’d understand if you came from a town where your teams actually won.” Geez. They hit below the belt in Pittsburgh.

Portofino Italian Restaurant and Banquet Facility in Wyandotte

Portofino along the Detroit River in Downriver (credit: Vicki Briganti)

Levy returned to our table to inquire about dessert. No dice. I fondly remember celebrating my mom’s 60th birthday party at Portofino. Her birthday is in August, but we didn’t sit outside that time either. My mom doesn’t like bugs. Or heat.

I’m not a huge fan of bugs, but I love the heat. I’ve been called a lizard. I hope to go back again and sit on the Portofino deck this summer, enjoying a partial view of the Detroit skyline from Downriver. Hey, isn’t the Wyandotte Street Art Fair next week? Yeah. July 13th-16th. I’ll see you there!

>> More Motor City Musing With Vicki Briganti


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