The Coastal Journal - Review
August 09, 2012
by Bruce M. Hardina, Coastal Journal Editor & Publisher
BOOTHBAY HARBOR — On Saturday, July 28, my wife Elaine, my 9-year-old daughter Olivia, and I went to dinner at Ports of Italy in Boothbay Harbor. I should start by telling you that I am Italian, born and raised in New York. My standards are high when it comes to all restaurants, but particularly for Italian ones. I have sat down at a dinner table where the grandparents didn't speak English. So I have been exposed to traditional and extraordinary Italian food. At Ports of Italy, all their pasta is homemade. That is impressive from the start, just because of the labor involved in making pasta from scratch. Sante is the owner. He was born and raised in Italy. In his 20s, he immigrated to America and spent many years training in a top-notch restaurant in Manhattan. Ports of Italy is on the second floor right downtown. Even my 9-year-old daughter Olivia immediately recognized the feeling produced by the scene. The moment we walked in, I could tell this was going to be a fine evening, and was hoping the food would be good as well. The owner greeted us with a strong Italian accent. Our server was European, and other wait staff was clearly Italian. We discovered over dinner that our server was in fact British, but spoke fluent Italian and summers in midcoast Maine for the obvious reasons.
We started our dinner with a Bellini, a traditional Italian drink made from a sparkling wine known as Prosecco, and peach nectar. It was smooth, light, refreshing, and not too sweet. Then they brought freshly baked bread with olive oil and a special ingredient. The young Italian woman, one of two people serving us, said it was a secret when I asked about it. I suspect it was many tiny pieces of olive skin. It added significant flavor to an already obviously very high quality oil. It was fresh, clean, rich.
For an antipasti, we had Rollatini di Melanzane, described as rolled eggplants with a stuffing of ricotta and parmesan cheese, fresh herbs, garlic and tomato sauce, topped with fresh mozzarella, for $10. The cheeses were unusually good – no, delicious. The eggplant was cooked to perfection.
Elaine had Insalata di Campagna, described as cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, and local arugula, with fresh oregano tossed in red wine vinaigrette, for $8. I had the Insalata di Finocchio, described as shaved fennel, orange segments, and assorted field greens with capers, in lemon dressing, $10.
I was surprised how subtly wonderful the shaved fennel was. Both salads were absolutely fantastic! Elaine had a glass of the shiraz and I had the cab. We shared and agreed they were both excellent. We also had a marinated vegetable antipasti. It was all delightful. Even the lower stalk of the asparagus was fabulous, flavorful, not stringy or woody.
For the entree, I had the Ravioli D' Aragosta, described as handmade ravioli stuffed with lobster in a light champagne and Aurora sauce for $22. Elaine had Pollo Alla Romana, described as sautéed boneless chicken breast and italia sausages with red and yellow peppers, onion, and garlic, in balsamic vinegar, $18.
I took a bite of a ravioli and tasted an explosion of luscious flavor. I had to pause I was so in awe of it. I turned to Elaine and insisted she take a bite. Her facial expression mirrored my experience. Her chicken melted in our mouths. The breast, which can be plain tasting and dry, was moist, possessing superb flavor. While we were eating, Andrea Bocelli's "Romanza" was playing in the background. I didn't even notice it for a while, but it helped set the mood.
For dessert, we had Panna Cotta Di Frutta Di Stagione, a very light Italian vanilla custard made of fresh seasoned fruit, $8, and Cannoli Alla Siciliana, which is a handmade original pastry shell with fresh, sweet ricotta cheese, candied oranges, and chocolate chips, $8. I've had many cannolis in my life, mostly in New York, but a few in Maine. These were as good as any I have ever had. I took a bite and savored it in my mouth, closing my eyes and slowly allowing a little at a time to slide down my throat. It probably took me a good minute or more with that first bite. Olivia was interested in the Panna Cotta. It was a very generous portion. But by the time I opened my eyes and looked over at it, this 50-pound girl had nearly finished it. I managed to acquire a teaspoon-full, enough to realize it was wonderfully delicious and refreshing.
We finished up with a refreshing, sparkling Italian beverage, different from the one we started with, but no less pleasant. Elaine said "Oh my God" more than once during our meal, the food was so magnificent. When I asked her to describe the meal overall, she just said "stellar." The Italian cheeses were far better tasting than we normally are accustomed to in Maine, or most places in the United States for that matter. Each tomato sauce was simultaneously outstanding and distinct from the others. Without reservation, I can say that the chef was masterful at his craft. The staff could not have been more accommodating nor appropriately attentive. The romantic accents added even further to the whole feel of the evening. Ports of Italy is truly a jewel in the midcoast. Don't let the summer go by without visiting. Thank you, Sante, for an outstanding dining experience.
Boston Globe - Dine
Need a sweet treat to start your morning? Head to Baker's Way (90 Townsend Ave., 207-633-1119) for fresh doughnuts and excellent sticky buns, and then return later in the day for Vietnamese fare ($8-$11). Enjoy either in the backyard garden. If you're craving a crustacean, the lobster rolls from the Trevett Country Store (Barters Island Road, Boothbay, 207-633-1140) are considered among the state's best. "Free Beer Tomorrow" proclaims the sign in front of Bet's Fish Fry (Route 27, on the Boothbay Common), a seasonal takeout shack renowned for generous servings of ultra-fresh fried haddock. If you find yourself in the mood for something a little more uptown, pair elevated harbor views with well-prepared tapas at the Boathouse Bistro (12 The By-Way, 207-633-0400, www.theboathouse bistro.com, $3-$15). And Sante Calandri prepares rave-worthy classic Northern Italian fare at Ports of Italy (47 Commercial St., 207-633-1011, www.portsofitaly .com), with most choices in the $20s.
48 Hours: Boothbay Harbor
Submitted by Heather O'Bryan Thursday, August 23rd, 2012
PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - The editorial staff at Maine magazine is at it again! Traveling to a Maine destination where they spend 48 hours. They visited the MORNING REPORT to tell us about it. This time the team went to Boothbay Harbor. Susan Grisanti, Editor-in-Chief of Maine magazine and Mali Welch, Production Manager shared their experience.