Portobello's combines Italian cuisine with Southern flavor and charm

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Brunch offerings available on weekends

Portobello's Grill fuses Italian food with Southern comfort foods. The menu is a mix of regional favorites with just enough culinary twists to make dining a pleasant outing. Give yourself time to read the extensive menu. Numerous pasta dishes range from meatballs in marinara sauce to blackened chicken penne. There are also grilled steak, chicken, pork and fish entrees.

Living up to its name, Portobello's offers specialty dishes featuring mushrooms. We almost had to roll dice to see who would choose the Nuts About Mushrooms entrée ($12.99). An excellent choice, the dish comes with three varieties of fresh mushrooms. Although the varieties weren't specific, the dish's Alfredo sauce complemented the mushrooms without overpowering them. Each variety's distinct flavor could be tasted. Sometimes dishes made with wine are a little rich, but that wasn't the case at Portobello's. The result was a nice, tasty balance of sauce, penne pasta and mushrooms, all of which worked together to highlight the mushrooms' flavor.

Twin filets Merlot ($21.99) deserves praises. Two three-ounce filets were perfectly done to medium rare as ordered. Add to this two sides: a succulent and warm wilted spinach and arugula and a sensation salad with romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, and artichokes accented with the familiar oil, vinegar, garlic and parmesan dressing.

For the hearty eater, the fire grilled pork chops ($18.99) are a perfect entrée. Two thick, eight-ounce center-cut bone-in and lean chops were lightly seasoned, grilled and served sizzling with a dollop of butter. For one side, our guest chose oglio olio. This is a delightful, light version of classic aglio olio, which is usually made of roasted garlic, red pepper, Italian parsley and olive oil tossed with pasta. A second side dish, the Jag's salad featured crisp mixed greens, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, grated cheddar cheese, smoked bacon and house-made croutons. It was topped off with a sweet-tart apple/pecan dressing packed with pecan pieces. Note: All of the restaurant's dressings are house-made, a real taste treat.

Another entrée, the grilled redfish ($18.99) was lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. The fish was basted with just the right amount of olive oil, white wine and citrus juice. The fresh, tender fish flaked at the touch of a fork, and it was not in the least overpowered with the sauce. Sides of arugula and wilted spinach and lettuce and pasta oglio olio completed the dish.

Don't overlook Portobello's "starters," a list of tempting appetizers that can easily turn into a complete meal. We found the meatball sliders ($9.99) exceptional. Four to an order, the sliders feature plump frilled meatball patties accented with Italian seasoning, with melted provolone cheese on fresh miniature buns. All this is served with the restaurant's slightly sweet marinara sauce. Served with the same sauce, the bland toasted ravioli ($8.99) squares were filled with melted cheese, but not fried as crisp as we would have preferred.

Although not listed on the menu, Portobello's offers a variety of desserts. We selected two house-made sweets. The café's carrot cake ($6.99) is somewhat dry, more like bread than a cake, but it's topped with a tasty creamy, white frosting. The ever-popular bread pudding ($6.99) was topped with a simple bananas Foster sauce.

Family-friendly, Portobello's is especially convenient. Enjoy a meal here for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We suggest checking out the weekend brunch menu. The warm, softly lit décor makes for a casual atmosphere where conversation flows easily. We appreciated the restaurant allowing us to make substitutions for certain side dishes. We also congratulate the wait staff's attention and courtesy.

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