By Arielle & Daniel
The distinctive characteristics of Huntington’s Porto Vivo are the details of its atmosphere.
Menus come on iPads in leather-like cases, save for the paper list of specials. Just past the door hang futuristic lighting fixtures, the candlestick-like lights framed by a cage of metal rectangles. The sinks – in the women's bathroom, at least – are surrounded by glittering stone seas colored topaz and beige.
Porto Vivo opened in 2009, when a Gerard Street antiques warehouse became a multilevel restaurant. Its creator, Joy Mangano, is also the inventor creator of a dynasty of handy Home Shopping Network products, including “Huggable Hangers.”
The Porto Vivo menu features typical Italian pizzettes and pastas, as well as a slew of complex options.
A foil to a list of pasta dishes rich and heavy with cream, the Ahi Tuna Tartare "B.L.T." appetizer ($13) is fresh and lemony, a result of the presence of East Asian citrus fruit Yuzu. A cube striped green – the avocado puree – and pink – the raw tuna and diced tomato – is textured by shredded Romaine lettuce and well-done pancetta.
The Crispy Gnocchi ($15), served in a lobster Bolognese, is made in-house with ricotta cheese. Less doughy than the traditional gnocchi, the appetizer holds true to the “crispy” in its name.
The Buffalo Mozzarella Tortelloni ($22), served in a shallow pool of truffle crema, dotted with peas, sprinkled with parmesan shavings and garnished with pancetta, is soft and creamy. Each piece is a cheese-filled pillow. The cheese, made of the milk of water buffalo, is moist, more fluid than may be expected.
The Pan Seared Salmon ($27) looks like a scene from the depths of a forest. A piece of pink fish is surrounded by greens and pancetta, bordered on one side by crispy olive oil-poached fingerling potatoes and on the opposite side by a smear of purple mustard.
The Lobster Raviolo ($26) is a dish that combines sheep's milk ricotta, smoked mozzarella, egg yolk, asparagus and shaved black truffles. The circumference of each piece is the size of a standard drinking glass. When one takes fork or knife to pasta piece, slicing into its center, the egg yolk pours onto the plate.
Porto Vivo's Chocolate Soufflé ($13), which requires 30 minutes of prep time, is everything that a dessert 30 minutes in the making should be. Warm and moist at its core, the soufflé is well worth the caloric intake.
The Creme Brûlée ($9), served in a different flavor each day, was vanilla last Friday night. With a thicker consistency than the typical creme brûlée, like a sort of stiff pudding, and a vaguely minty aftertaste, the dessert is not quite traditional.
Also erring on the side of the untraditional is the Tiramisu ($10). A narrow rectangular dish serves as the backdrop for three circular displays: a tiny cup of coffee, a pile of strawberries underneath a whipped cream cap and a raspberry drizzle, and a glass of Mascarpone and cake that wears a crisscrossed Lady Finger garnish.
Even when dessert is over, the restaurant is vibrant with live music coming from the mid-level bar, and an environment heavy with dark wood is illuminated by glowing yellow light.
7 Gerard Street, Huntington
Atmosphere: Upscale but cozy
Hours: Monday: closed; Tuesday-Thursday: 4:30-10 p.m.; Friday: 4:30-11 p.m.; Saturday: 2:30-11 p.m.; and Sunday: 2:30-9 p.m.