We were invited to try the new Meatball Bar at Downtown Disney’s Portobello Restaurant this past Thursday. I’d not been back to Portobello since it was renovated (the words “Yacht Club” still roll off my tongue with the restaurant name in the same way that “Polynesian Village” still can), but it was nice to be back in familiar surroundings where I’ve enjoyed many nice dining experiences – and I won’t wait another couple of years before I return.
The outside of the Portobello Restaurant, which is situated near the entrance to Pleasure Island when walking from the Marketplace:
We were offered a variety of organic beers to try from the Orlando Brewing Company. Orlando Brewing is hand-crafted about 20 miles down I-4 in downtown Orlando (we visited the brewery late last year), and is the only certifed organic brewery in Florida. If you can’t make time to visit the brewery itself, definitely stop by Portobello and try one – or all – of several hand crafted beers! Currently, Portobello is serving Olde Pelican (Organic English Pale Ale), Blackwater Dry Porter (Organic American Brown Porter) and European Pilz (Organic German-Style Pilsener). We were told by Executive Chef Steven Richard that the beers will likely change seasonally.
We were early, which allowed us to get some photos before everyone arrived:
A beer from the Orlando Brewing Company:
The meatball sliders come in 4 flavors – Beef and Veal with Parsley, Spicy Pork, Chicken with Sage, and Salmon with Tarragon. Each is $1.95 except for the Salmon, which is $2.95. The best deal is to get 3 for $5.00, and 3 is enough for a nice dinner for myself. The sliders are served on a mini-hoagie roll (baked locally). Executive Chef Steven Richard told us that “you can tell the difference by the herb”. He said the Spicy Pork includes chili falafel and has “a little bit of a bite” (and it did have a bit, but not too much!) My favorite of the meatballs was the Beef and Veal, with the Chicken with Sage coming in a close second – I’ve never had anything quite like the Chicken with Sage meatball, it’s lighter than the beef and is Executive Chef Steven Richard’s favorite. I am not a big fish eater – any fish I do eat has to be disguised well. The Salmon with Tarragon slider isn’t – but it was a favorite at our table of those who do eat salmon.
We also tried some of Portobello’s other offerings – including several pizza samples. My favorite was the simple Margherita pizza, though the Tuscan Salumi (a combination of salami and pepperoni) pizza was a big hit with everyone. The only pizza that I’d not go back for is the Quattro Formaggi, it had just too heavy of a cheese taste for me.
A new experience for me – eggplant fries. Totally addictive. Everyone at our table loved them and I’d go to Portobello just for these! They had a lighter taste than what I’m used to with potato fries.
For dessert, we were offered two samples – first, “Biramisu” or “Beeramisu”, there is not yet a spelling given by the Portobello Restaurant for this creation! The other dessert was a panna cotta, which reminded me of a flan. The Biramasu was perfect – just a hint of beer and topped with a chocolate covered coffee bean. I hope it makes it onto the menu! The panna cotta had a peach puree, and was light and delightful. Everyone I was sitting with had seconds of these wonderful desserts.
Looking outside from our table:
On the way out, I took photos of the signs above the bar:
Executive Chef Steven Richard has been with Portobello for 3 years, and as part of the Levy restaurant chain for 7 (the other 4 were at the Wolfgang Puck at the Downtown Disney West Side). He created the Biramasu, while Chef Tony Mantuano from the highly regarded Spiaggia in Chicago (and also a Levy restaurant) conceptualized the meatball sliders. Stop by and try these new creations – with a taste of Orlando’s best beer!
Portobello Trattoria does take both the Tables in Wonderland Card and the Walt Disney World Annual Pass for a discount.