Lunch With Tillie: Il Porto

By my estimates, I’ve eaten about 736,984 slices of pizza in my lifetime. My little pizza-loving companion Tillie has a long way to go, but I’ll get her there!

Hey everyone, it’s Van and Baby T, and as we both had pizza on the minds, we decided to swing down to Italian restaurant Il Porto between Flushing and Park avenues on Washington for our latest lunchtime jaunt. (I don’t know for sure if Tillie really had pizza on her mind, but if she’s anything like her pop, she did!)

A funny thing about Il Porto: I’ve only had it once and that was way back around when it first opened, pre-Tillie even. I say “a funny thing” because being such a big pizza fan, it seems like I would’ve made it there again. I’ve talked to people around the ‘hood who rave about it, but I guess that first time around wasn’t enough to make me a convert.

And while I was in the mood of trying something relatively new, I took it a step further and went all-out on this one: I didn’t pack any back-up food for Tillie. None of her pasta, none of her pureed carrots, none of her grapes – just a few bunny graham crackers. If lunch at the restaurant didn’t work out for her, we were close enough to home to just pack up and head there.

Anyway, we started off down Washington to the place and made it to Park Avenue. Looming before us, though, was the BQE in its state of constant repair. At least the tarps weren’t blocking the Washington entrance, but scarily enough, there were signs warning pedestrians to keep out from the part under the bridge where cars usually park due to poisonous materials in the area. We weren’t going in that section, but still had to walk way closer to it than I would’ve liked. Needless to say, we ran through!

When we got to Il Porto, I went in through the side that appeared to be more casual, where pies were under the glass and you just order at the counter. That part was packed, which must be a good sign for the pizza, I thought. However, it wasn’t going to work for us with the stroller and all, so we went to the beautifully arranged dining room. This side was empty, save for a couple of customers, so we were able to have our pick of the place to sit. I found a nice table on the side where I could put Tillie in the high chair without obstructing anyone’s path and also where I wouldn’t have to collapse her stroller.

I looked over the menu, which you might be asking yourself, “Why, Van? Didn’t you just want a pizza? What’s so hard about that?” Well, friends, Il Porto offers a number of specialty pizzas, all with names paying tribute to the neighborhood, such as the Navy Yard and the Wallabout. I was intrigued by some of the offerings, but remember, I was sharing with Tillie, so I went as basic as I could and just ordered the Margherita pie. Then, since I remembered babies can’t live on pizza alone, I ordered a bowl of minestrone soup and asked for some bread, too. lwtilporto-tillie

The bread basket arrived with a variety of pieces to choose from. I gave Tillie one of the twisted pieces to chew on, then the soup came. I was a little shocked when it arrived to the table because the bowl was huge! It was like they brought the pot to our table and left the little cup I was expecting in the back. Tillie had a few bites of the soup, which was loaded down with fresh vegetables, and though I’m not much of minestrone fan myself, I have to admit it had a pretty decent flavor. There was no way we were going to be able to finish it all, but we gave it a shot. Plus, we had pizza to deal with!

And speak of the devil, our pizza arrived, and it was a welcome sight to see: The crust had that nice brick-oven char to it, the cheese was plentiful (which can be a rarity sometimes on Margherita pies, I feel) and the sauce looked rich. Since I’ve eaten so much pizza in my time, I decided the first bite should go to my little dining companion, so I cut her off a little piece, blew on it to cool it down and let her have at it. After she had her bite and I had a taste, we proceeded to scarf it down: pizza sauce was flying everywhere! About 10 minutes later, we were all done, with not so much as a gob of cheese left on the serving tray.

lwtilporto-foodSo we were satisfied with the pie, even though in hindsight I was thinking I should have gotten some pepperoni added to it or something, which could’ve really set it off. Plus, we were able to make it through the meal without any of her backup dishes. I’m still not a complete Il Porto convert, but I would go back. First, though, there a couple of things I’ll have to consider.

One was the check: My bill was over 20 bucks, which was partially my fault with ordering the unneeded soup, most of which we didn’t eat. But $3 for a 20-ounce soda seemed a little unnecessary.

Then there was the sake of even getting to the place, which isn’t in the restaurant’s hands. Avoiding the areas where work is being done or marked off as being toxic is tough when traveling with a baby. I live on Hall Street between Myrtle and Willoughby, and unfortunately, it’s not a straight shot down: I have to go down Washington like I did before or, I assume, walk all the way down to Myrtle and Carlton, then head toward Park and backtrack to Washington. I don’t want to burden you with all my logistical hang-ups, but it’s still something to think about if making a lunchtime choice.

If it gets to be too much for me to head down there, there’s always delivery, as I’m sure Tillie and I have more Il Porto pizza eating to do!