// Location100 Commercial St.
Portland, ME 04101
// Hours5 to 10 p.m. Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
// Price Range$$$
// Cuisine Type Italian, Seafood,
// AT A GLANCE
Solo Italiano is full of surprises. Ignore its Commercial Street location and its very chic, newly recast interior, and you’ll discover a restaurant that cares about simplicity and tradition. Paolo Laboa, executive chef and part-owner, is behind the restaurant’s focus on Northern Italian dishes, in particular food from Liguria, where he was raised. By and large, the dishes he and his team prepare are successful ones, most especially a yellowtail carpaccio in a sultry, savory “gazpacho,” and a stupendously good dessert interpretation of a Caprese salad. Laboa’s homemade pastas, like orechiette and papardelle, are also very good, if occasionally let down by seasoning problems. Solo Italiano’s wine list is, as its name proposes, only Italian, and does not disappoint, with a very strong selection of reds and whites that includes plenty of sub-$40 options, like a bright, softly tannic Scagliola “Mati” Barbera ($34), which is also available by the glass ($9). No matter what else you order, be sure to taste something that includes a little of Laboa’s world-beating pesto, like the straightforward silk handkerchief pasta. It’s an uncomplicated dish, but one that underscores how, by paying attention to details, a chef can surprise you with even the simplest food.