Villa Portofino restaurant – San Leandro – review

2013 Update: The restaurant is now closed

Feb. 2011 Update
Villa Portofino is now Viva Portofino. I went there for breakfast on 2/11 and it was OK. Full Review.
December 2010 Update
Villa Portofino is open once again, serving Italian food. A friend went for breakfast and said it was basic but good.
September 2010 Update. Villa Portofino seems to be in the process of being remodeled. The restaurant has been closed for a while now, and it’s packed by still-in-wrapping brand-new chairs. They also seem to have painted the walls (badly). It seems to be under the same management than before, and it’s anyone’s guess what it will try to re-invent itself as.

A couple of weeks ago (late August 2008) Mike and I finally had the opportunity to try Villa Portofino, the new Italian restaurant in San Leandro that occupies the space on the corner of Bancroft & Dutton previously occupied by Viva Pancho Villa and Francisco’s. I’d have tried it sooner, but it’s not open for lunch.
The restaurant hasn’t changed too much, but it does have a slightly more upscale look now that there are tablecloths and cloth napkins. Still, it can’t really escape its architecture and it’s can’t really get beyond being a casual place for dinner. Indeed, I’d say that it doesn’t quite aspire to be much more than that, but for the $140 bottle of wine in their menu! Mike had to ask if it was a misprint, not just because it seemed out of place in a restaurant where most dishes are in the mid-teens, but because it was designated in the menu just as a “cabernet sauvignon” – no indication as to winery or vintage. Weird. I think we had soft drinks.
Villa Portofino’s menu features Italian-American classics, focusing on pastas. They have several well priced daily specials (low to mid teens for pastas), and when we visited we both ordered from the specials menu. Mike had a sausage risotto while I had a rigattoni with some kind of tomato sauce I can’t quite recall. My dish was good and hearty, with al-dente cooked pasta and familiar flavors. It wasn’t gourmet or particularly delicious, but quite satisfying. I wouldn’t make a point of going there to have it again, but I’d order it if I was craving something homey. Mike was quite happy with his risotto. he liked the combination of flavors and the creaminess of the rice.
The dessert list is very prosaic, tiramisus and so forth, and I had the creme brulee. It was a good sized portion, and I appreciated that it was served warm. There is nothing as off-putting as cold creme brulee. It was quite good, though the layer of caramelized sugar was too thin. Still, I’d order it again.
Service was a bit fluky, the waitress seems to be new to the profession and did not pay enough attention to our table (at least look at me so I can flag you to get my bill!).
In all, it was a pleasant dining experience, and I’d go again – albeit not for a date.
Villa Portofino
599 Dutton Ave @ Bancroft
San Leandro, CA
(510) 553-1343
Open for dinner only
San Leandro Restaurant Reviews
Bay Area Restaurant Reviews

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