Reopened Portofino's brings holiday cheer to town center

A holiday tradition has returned to town this year — Christmas Eve dinner at Portofino's. "Christmas Eve has always been one of our busiest nights," said owner Tony Ramadani, owner of the restaurant, which had been closed since it was heavily damaged by fire on Dec. 12, 2010. The eatery had a soft opening in June and has been serving customers its trademark Italian specialties ever since.

In keeping with Italian tradition, the restaurant will serve a variety of fish Christmas Eve, along with the regular menu. "We're going to serve tuna, scallops, all kind of fish, along with everything else," he said. "We get so many customers, and it is just a beautiful evening."

Mr. Ramadani said it is also a good time to celebrate the reopening of the restaurant, which first opened its doors in 1988 and became a fixture in old Post Office Square.

"We want to thank our customers for coming back," said Mr. Ramadani. "Business has been great and we are very happy."

Portofino's is also available for holiday parties and get-togethers, he said.

After the fire, which caused extensive damage, the restaurant was completely remodeled and enlarged, Mr. Ramadani said. Among the changes are higher ceilings, which have been raised by "three or four feet," according to Mr. Ramadani, and a bright new, enclosed dining room overlooking the Norwalk River, which was formerly the patio.

"The space is open now," he said. "It's warm and inviting."

Another touch is exposed beams that came from a reclaimed barn in Torrington, Mr. Ramadani said.

Although many of the menu items are traditionally Italian, the restaurant has added a bit of a French accent with its new chef, Raymond Peron.

A classically trained French chef, Mr. Peron worked on ocean liners such as the S.S. Norway and Queen Mary before emigrating to the United States in 1967.

He has been adding such specials to the menu as veal chops with apple brandy sauce, or cotes de veau au calvados, and such desserts as tarte tatin with peaches, a classic French tart with caramelized peach filling. Among the other variety of desserts are cheesecakes, which are also made on the premises, according to Mr. Peron.

Along with the specials, the menu ranges from veal saltimbocca to filet mignon, pizza, chicken parmesan, and mushroom ravioli. A variety of appetizers and salads are also available, along with sandwiches and burgers at lunchtime.

"Our menu is continental," said Mr. Ramadani, a Ridgefield resident who also owns two restaurants in Danbury, Spasi and Max 40.

When he opened Portofino's at 10 Center Street in 1988, there were only a handful of other restaurants in town, he said. "After all these years, my customers are like my family. I've seen their kids grow up, and now the kids are bringing their families here."

Information: 203-761-9115.