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The Resort Hotels – Portofino Bay Hotel: Mama Della's Ristorante


What: Home-style Italian dinners
Where: Facing the Harbor Piazza, next to the Trattoria
Price Range: $$$ - $$$$
Hours: 5:30 to 10:00 p.m.
Reservations: Recommended; (407) 503-1415 or OpenTable.com

A lot of people will tell you this is their favorite Portofino Bay restaurant and it has attracted a dedicated local following. It isn’t as fancy as Bice and the cuisine is more comforting than intriguing, but perhaps that is the attraction. Then, too, Mama Della’s comes complete with Mama, a perfectly cast woman of a certain age who greets you warmly at the door and makes you feel as if you never left the Old Neighborhood even if you were never there to begin with.

The decor evokes a large and comfortable country home with its beamed ceilings and colorful wallpaper. Vintage family photographs and gaudy gold-framed floral paintings line the walls of the various rooms. Colorful pitchers, bowls, and other folk ceramics are displayed in niches. Adding to the casual air is an open galley kitchen in the back room where you can see chefs in baseball caps dishing up their homey specialties. And a festive note is contributed by a strolling singer offering popular Italian songs to an accordion accompaniment.

Among the appetizers ($9 to $15), you'll find the tender fried calamari (with both marinara and pesto dipping sauces) and mixed antipasto of cured meats, cheeses, and marinated vegetables especially noteworthy.

The entrees ($18 to $38) can best be described as Italian comfort food: chicken marsala, chicken parmigiana, lasagna, and the like. The veal dishes, prepared in various styles, are reliably spectacular and big enough for two to share. Another winner is the frutti di mare — grilled shrimp, scallops, and grouper with roasted tomatoes in a garlic sauce. A generous mixed salad comes with your meal, as does fresh bread and dipping oil. Many of the dishes here can be served "family style" on large platters for a group. Family style service typically means a modest discount off the individual price for each additional person. Vegetable side dishes are not listed on the menu but can be ordered for about $7. Desserts ($6 to $9) range from simple sorbets and tiramisu to a fancy chocolate extravaganza..

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