Portofino reopens after renovation
Portofino has had a makeover, but the charm that has made it a Bermuda favourite for more than four decades remains firmly in place.
The Bermudiana Road eatery reopens today after a six-week renovation, which revamped both the front and back of the house.
In the front, with seating for 100 diners, virtually everything is new: floor tiles, table tops, bench seating and chairs, and lighting. Cedar accents, providing warmth, have been refinished, and the brick half-walls have been repainted.
Portofino’s signature wall-to-wall photos of Italy’s most beloved locales have been colour-enhanced and reframed, and more have been added to take the number beyond 200.
“We renovated the restaurant to give our customers what they have always longed for,” said Simone Maranzana, co-owner with his wife Karen. “Our customers have always loved it here — they love the food, love the service, but now it’s a more comfortable experience.
“Just as our new lighting combines an edison bulb with a new fixture, the restaurant is now a mixture of old and new. It still has the old Portofino feel, but with a new look. It has a ‘wow factor’, but it doesn’t have a ‘wow, where am I?’ factor. People will still feel like it’s Portofino, it will still feel like home.”
Mr Maranzana’s parents, Cesare and Sandra, opened Portofino in 1977. Simone and Karen took over the restaurant completely three years ago. “When we took over, we wanted to make the restaurant more comfortable,” Mrs Maranzana said. “We wanted to put our mark on it, make it ours.”
“Now, it’s more comfortable, more open, more diverse as far as seating,” Mr Maranzana said. “We can cater now to multiple large parties. Before, we could accommodate one big table of 14 in the main room, but now in that one room we can put multiple tables of 12 people together.”
The Maranzanas have hired a new head chef, too. Maximo Villagra, an Argentinian of Italian heritage, joins Portofino from Sul Verde, at Tucker’s Point and, at the owners’ request, has updated the lunch and dinner menus.
“When we decided to do the reno, we wanted to make the menus more diverse, cater to everyone, offer more than pastas and pizzas,” Mrs Maranzana said.
The much-loved pizzas remain unchanged, Mr Maranzana said, with some pasta dishes being retained and others added. “We have added home-made sausages, burrata, homemade mozzarella, and now all of our pastas are homemade inside the house,” he said. “We have branzino, the fish, which is flown in fresh. When you take it out of the container, it smells like the Mediterranean Sea.”
The kitchen has new equipment, new safety systems and a new layout. “The back of the house got just as much attention as the front of the house,” Mr Maranzana said. “It’s basically a completely new restaurant.”
What isn’t new, of course, is the restaurant’s old-world service. Manager Giovanni Guglielmucci, originally from Matera in southern Italy, has been in place for 26 years, while head waiter Renato Baccaglio has been at Portofino for more than a decade.
“People come here with stories to tell,” Mr Maranzana said. “We recently hosted a child’s birthday party and, afterwards, the dad said he had been here for his birthday party as a child. It still feels like Portofino, but now it’s exciting and fresh.”
While the furniture was imported, Simone says local suppliers, tradespeople and installers were used, including MC Baron Construction, Pembroke Tile, Surface Trends, DCM Carpentry, Correia’s Custom Carpentry, Frameworks, Bermuda Blueprinting, and Bermuda Gas.
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