By Sarah Jackson Herald Writer
The Loft Cafe &Social Lounge brought a most-welcome splash of cutting-edge, Seattle-hip cuisine to downtown Edmonds when it opened in 2008.
When I heard the owners were the same people behind the beloved institution of Portofino Pizza &Pasta on the outskirts of the Edmonds Bowl, I figured we’d better investigate.
I, along with my husband and 2-year-old son, were welcomed warmly on a weeknight at Portofino, a casual, family-friendly establishment busy with a steady stream of take-out orders as well as Edmonds regulars who love to dine out.
Portofino, the Loft’s old Italian auntie, offers delicious pizzas, pastas, oven-baked grinders and fresh salads from a bright, open kitchen.
Though some facets of the decorating are contemporary, including boxy vases filled with beautiful red twigs, some of the furniture is clearly from days gone by, including old but quite comfortable supper-club swivel chairs on wheels.
Let’s get to the point, though: I loved the pizza.
And my husband, who had to content himself with the restaurant’s tasty low-carb option — baked meatballs ($11.95) — was jealous, especially of the crust.
I ordered a medium La Cosa Nostra, a thick crust topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, roasted garlic, pancetta, prosciutto, onions and red sauce ($19.95).
It was a generously sized, if pricy, pie with a robust Sicilian-style crust.
I love Sicilian crust because it’s not airy and bready like a high-rise deep-dish dough. It’s dense, more like compressed focaccia, chewy like a good bagel.
All the toppings tasted fresh and the balance against the sauce and cheese was perfect. It went quite well with my Columbia Crest H3 Merlot ($9).
My husband’s meatball entree, covered in a hearty, tasty sauce and loads of mozzarella and Parmesan, came with an iceberg-lettuce “garden salad.”
Though I always cringe at the use of iceberg lettuce in salads, it was fresh and topped with a mound of shredded cheese and sliced black olives.
Cheese in large quantities hardly ever hurts, though I would have appreciated a larger plate to prevent constant slippage off the plate.
I ordered the same side salad with the optional shrimp ($5) and found the shellfish to be bright and fresh. They weren’t the teeny-tiny canned shrimp you typically see on salad, but 1-inch long bites of scrumptious crustacean.
Complaints about the service at Portofino abound on Yelp. Our experience, however, was good, though the place wasn’t packed.
While the wait staff seemed young, perhaps seniors in high school or college-age, they seemed to know what they were doing.
Our server was thoughtful enough to bring our child a free plate of shredded cheese and olives for snacking, plus crayons and paper.
We ordered our son a kid’s-menu penne pasta with butter and Parmesan ($3.95) and a glass of milk ($1.50).
Our server was also quick to put in a late order of chicken Marsala ($15.95), which we wanted to go for sampling later.
Numerous chicken breast pieces, pounded thin and ever so lightly breaded with flour, were served on a bed of spaghetti, topped with a dark, brown sauce, plus fresh tomato chunks, sauteed mushrooms and bits of green onion.
Portofino’s Marsala, though a touch too sweet for even my sweet tooth, was still a winner, something I’d order again after a daylong hike.
I can see now why Portofino — conveniently located for commuters at the corner of Olympic View Drive and Puget Drive, an extension of 196th Street — is a local favorite.
I’ll definitely come back, probably on my way home, for take-out.
I want to try more pizzas such as chicken pesto, barbecue chicken and the meat lover’s. That’s not to mention the many intriguing pastas I could take home on nights when we entertain, but don’t want to prepare anything more than a salad.
Portofino Pizza &Pasta
1306 Olympic View Drive, Edmonds; 425-771-4788; www.portofinopizza.com
Hours: 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 p.m. Sundays and Mondays
Alcohol: Wine and beer