Located in Zapoteca’s old space, Pizzarino is owned by three Milanese friends, one of whom also started Paciarino, a pasta-centric restaurant down the street. Opened in August, this place focuses on pizza, rice-based dishes and gnocchi. The bar area is lovely, with comfortable wooden barstools with backs and purse hooks underneath the bar. There’s even a tiny outdoor seating area. One of the owners greeted me and my two friends when we arrived and clearly wanted to make sure we enjoyed ourselves.
I ordered the $12 Negroni Sbagliato, a Negroni made with prosecco instead of gin. It was a nice light drink, but it didn’t taste like a Negroni, and I missed the gin. My drinking companions ordered a $9 bellini and a $10 Aperol spritz. We couldn’t tell if the prosecco (which is on tap) was flat or if the ratio of prosecco to club soda was off, but the drinks were a bit flatter than we had expected. Despite the fact that the bar had been open for over a month, the bartender was brand new and was still familiarizing himself with the Italian ingredients, so I suspect that was just a temporary glitch.
Italian wine on tap is $7 a glass; Italian and Maine beer on tap is $6.50 a pint. The digestives collection includes amaro, Aperol, brandy, Campari, Cointreau, Fernet Branca, grappa, Limoncello, Nocino, Rabarbaro Zucca, Sambuca and vermouth. The menu provides descriptions of each digestive for patrons who might not be familiar with them, as well as a wine and beer pairing for each food item.
Speaking of the menu, we weren’t going to leave without eating in a manner that would lead observers to conclude that we were carb-loading for a marathon. I ordered the $12 arancino classico, one of my friends ordered the $16 gnocchi with pesto, and my other friend ordered the $13.50 mushroom and artichoke pizza. All were excellent, but mine was the real star. Then again, how could you go wrong with a dish featuring fried rice and cheese?
My friends then ordered the $12 Nutella pizza. Yes, readers, that is not a typo: I said Nutella pizza. Take a minute to let that sink in. It was as delightful as it sounds, although too rich for even three people to finish. I do like my desserts like I like my boyfriends – rich, fully satisfying and occasionally European – but even I had to put down my fork (who am I kidding, I was eating it with my hands) and admit defeat.
At one point, we ordered an item that didn’t live up to the others, so we didn’t finish it. The bartender noticed and alerted the owner, who came over to see what the issue was. Genuinely interested in why we didn’t like it, he listened carefully, went back to the kitchen to find out what had happened and then removed it from the bill. Customer service like that will result in my returning. That and Nutella pizza.
WHERE: 505 Fore St., Portland
PHONE: (207) 536-1189
HOURS: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily (kitchen closes at 9:30 p.m.)
AMENITIES: Actual Italian owners and a small retail section selling a few supplies such as flour and glasses.
BOTTOM LINE: If you want authentic Italian food and friendly owners who want to make sure you leave satisfied, this is the place for you.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: No