Review: Porta Romana (Spruce Grove)

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Porta Romana Italian Restaurant at 420 King Street Spruce Grove.

On Thursday, my friend Nicole took me out for a belated birthday dinner at the newest Italian restaurant in Spruce Grove – Porta Romana (420 King Street, Spruce Grove)!

Porta Romana opened about five months ago and is the city’s first – only authentic, local Italian restaurant. About time right?!

As regular readers of my restaurant reviews know, Spruce Grove is not far from where Mike and I live on the west end – so we do often try to take in activities/movies/restaurants in that fine city. I was very excited to hear about Porta Romana’s opening and even more thrilled when Nicole suggested it as our date night restaurant.

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Inside Porta Romana

We arrived at 6:30 without a reservation because well, we didn’t think we’d need one. We were wrong! This place was packed. All the tables were filled and luckily Nicole was the first on the waiting list, so we did end up getting in pretty quickly (about a 20 minute wait) but while we waited the entranceway slowly filled up with more and more people, and throughout our dinner there was always someone waiting by the door for a table. Reservations recommended here! (Note: While we waited, the owner came up to chat with us and then later into the wait, a server came up to chat/reassure us. Super friendly!)

The space is really clean, classy, just a very nice room with some nice fixtures, including this great rock wall with fireplace:

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Great decor!

Natural lighting spills in through some pretty big windows which is always preferred for food photos! There were only two servers working while we were there, along with the owners (husband and wife team!) Our server was not as quick or as attentive as I would have preferred, but I’m sympathetic to the fact that they are new, understaffed, and extremely busy, so I forgive her!

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Avocado e Gamberetti (avocado with shrimp in a salsa rosa) – $15 at Porta Romana

We shared the Avocado e Gamberetti (avocado with shrimp in a salsa rosa – $15) to start. It was an absolutely beautiful dish!! Just the perfect presentation. I really enjoyed it but Nicole and I both agreed it is definitely a bit too rich and creamy. It balanced out very well with the plate of bread we received, but had we not been dipping and pairing with bread, eating this dish alone might be a lot for your palette. Really tasty though!! And again, gorgeous plate.

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Spaghetti Ai Fruitti Di Mare (durum wheat, fresh mussels and clams, scallops, shrimp, calamari, in tomato & white wine sauce) – $22 at Porta Romana

I really liked their menu offering (see their full menu here). They also write daily specials on chalkboard in the restaurant. There’s a bunch of dishes where the pasta is handmade – which is fantastic (there’s just an instantly tastier bite to handmade pasta!) And they also have a series of durum wheat pastas. That’s one of the ones I tried – the Spaghetti Ai Fruitti Di Mare (durum wheat, fresh mussels and clams, scallops, shrimp, calamari, in tomato & white wine sauce – $22). I loved this dish. The portions are generous. The pasta is cooked perfectly and the sauce is great. I took home some for lunch the next day and wolfed it down too, very good!

Porta Romana Italian - Spruce Grove - Edmonton

Petto Di Pollo Ripieno (tender chicken breast stuffed with spinach, mozzarella & feta, in a mushroom suace, with mashed potatoes) – $20 at Porta Romana

Nicole ordered the Petto Di Pollo Ripieno (tender chicken breast stuffed with spinach, mozzarella & feta, in a mushroom suace, with mashed potatoes – $20). It was good, though I tried a bit of it and thought it could’ve used maybe a bit more seasoning (Nicole agrees). I also thought the presentation wasn’t as fantastic (just a bit lumpy).

Overall we were both quite happy with our experience at Porta Romana. I personally loved my dish, and did really think the appetizer was quite tasty (when balanced with bread). I think I would’ve been quite happy with the chicken dish too if I had ordered it. I think price points are quite fair for the portions and deliciousness that you get. Love the authenticity and idea of handmade pasta. On their website they say their chef is straight from Italy, and I think it shows in the dishes. The husband/owner also had quite a heavy Italian accent as well. I absolutely want to and will visit this place again, there was lots on the menu I still want to try. It’s a perfect place for a date night or special occasion (or just regular ol dinner!) Though service was a bit slow, the server we had was still very friendly. I know they are planning to hire more people so that should also improve the slower service.

I absolutely recommend Porta Romana – for anyone living in Spruce Grove but even for Edmontonians. We have a lot of Italian options in Edmonton but it’s always nice to try something new and I think this place is pretty great already, plus has a lot of potential for more greatness. I had Italian at a different Italian restaurant the next day in Edmonton (review to come) and being able to compare so immediately to Porta Romana, made me appreciate the Porta Romana experience even more!

Given the line-ups and the tasty food we experienced, I don’t think Porta Romana will have any problem becoming the go-to Italian restaurant in Spruce Grove. It really is quite a surprise that it’s taken so long for the city to get its first local, authentic Italian eatery.

A very, very welcome addition!

Let me know what you think when/if you’ve tried it!

Linda


Porta Romana on Urbanspoon

Recap: Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

On August 13, I joined a bunch of fabulous food loving friends and media at the Sabor Seafood Festival media/VIP night festival kick-off! Two very long tables were set up in the restaurant as guests prepared for a family-style seafood meal.

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

From August 14-September 14, Sabor is running its #saborseafoodfest. There’s a new menu that features fantastic, Oceanwise seafood dishes, and the classic, fine-dining restaurant also unveiled its new name (from Sabor Divino to Sabor) and new look.

Long table!

Long table!

Owner Christian Mena greeted everyone and explained that tonight we’d be eating the way he and Chef Lino Oliveira eat – family style, sharing. The menu would feature small bites teasing a bigger Sabor Seafood Festival menu. Dishes included:

Check out all of the food porn below, and check out Sabor’s full seafood festival menu here. More on my overall thoughts on the night follow the food porn :)

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Bay scallops with cauliflower puree at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Grilled calamari with lemon and spicy tomato sauce at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Sardine pate crostini at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Wild arctic char tartar with avocado and pimento aioli at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Bacalhau (salt cod) cakes at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Octopus salad at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Piri piri prawns at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Sabor Signature lobster risotto at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Pan-roasted sable fish with cucumber green onion salsa at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Surprise dish: Paella (prawns, scallops, calamari, mussels, clams, vegetables, saffron rice) at Sabor Seafood Festival!

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

To stay or to go cherry port cheesecake in a jar at Sabor Seafood Festival!

The night was filled with fantastic food and great company. We were lucky to have Christian Mena serenade us and Chef Lino came out after the surprise paella, excitedly noting Sabor’s official Oceanwise certification.

My favourite dishes included the grilled calamari in lemon and spicy tomato sauce, the cooked to perfection bay scallops, the Piri Piri prawns, and the pan-roasted sable fish (love the texture!)

My least favourite dishes included the wild arctic char tar tar (wasn’t a fan of the texture, and I think I’m just so obsessed with tuna tar tar that I was hoping for more of that kind of taste) and I also found the risotto not to be the very best risotto I’ve had. It was good but not the best – as they call it their Signature dish I was expecting the best!

Overall the experience was great. The atmosphere was so lovely!! I told those around me that the evening’s long table settings and dim, twinkly lights along with excellent, attentive service and delicious food would have made for a magical wedding reception.

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

Edmonton Sabor Seafood Festival

This was my very first visit to Sabor and it will not be my last! I’ve heard so many great things about this restaurant and my first visit certainly lived up to the expectation. If you love seafood, and are enticed by any of the dishes above, then Sabor’s Seafood Festival is a must try. The festival runs until September 14. Here’s a look at the Seafood Festival Menu. (Delicious! But NOTE: This is definitely NOT going to be a cheap dinner. $$$).

Let me know what you think when you go! :)

Linda


Sabor Divino on Urbanspoon

Recap: Edmonton Heritage Festival 2014

On Monday, Mike, his mom and I went to one of my favourite summer events – Heritage Festival! I have a system to get the most out of Heritage Festival and it goes a little something like this:

We went first thing in the morning – which I recommend everyone should do – so as to avoid intense heat, crazy line-ups and crowds. Thanks to the excellent transit shuttle system, we arrived exactly when the festival opened (10 a.m.) and were done/left just after 1 p.m. I was told by a friend later that the crowds were insane after we left so I’m really glad we did it bright and early.

Bright and early at Heritage Fest! Hi Vietnam Pavilion.

Bright and early at Heritage Fest! Hi Vietnam Pavilion.

After we get our tickets (this year we had the pleasure of getting some tickets in advance at Servus Credit Union, but we still had to stop at the ticket line to get some more for Mike’s mom. It’s okay though because if you go first thing in the morning, again there are no line-ups!) we choose a direction to go in (in this case we turned right) and then we follow along past each pavilion and food tent until we make it back to our original starting spot.

The most delicious chicken and veggie shish kebabs from Sudan, put on the grill early in the morning!

The most delicious chicken and veggie shish kebabs from Sudan, put on the grill early in the morning!

Along the way we take in a few performances, check out a few of the non-food items being sold, and of course – EAT!!! We try to be very efficient and don’t like to double back (but sometimes this happens because you’re just not sure if you want to commit the number of tickets for a dish because there might be something better later on, and then you realize you really wanted the previous dish and nothing else after it has piqued your interest enough, so in that case you HAVE to double back).

The Irish/Gaelic song and dance to Cups/When I’m Gone was my absolute favourite performance of the fest!

Big crowd for the amazing Irish dancers!

Big crowd for the amazing Irish dancers!

Between the three of us we had a total of 90 tickets (three sheets) and your best bet really is to go with a few people (but not too many) so you can share and really try to taste as much as you can! I don’t really like how some of the dishes can cost so many tickets (very different from Taste of Edmonton in that sense) but some of the portion sizes are definitely worth it (some however are not, so it can be hit or miss).

Some of the great dishes we tried at Heritage Festival 2014!

Some of the great dishes we tried at Heritage Festival 2014!

We tried:

  • Jerk Pork from the Carribean (8 tickets)
  • The Combo Plate – Bigos Polish Hunter’s Stew, Sausage, Pierogis and Bread – from Poland (10 tickets)
  • Mango’s Loco – Mango on a stick in lime juice & spices – from Guatemala (7 tickets)
  • Pan Con Lechon – Pulled Pork Slider – from Cuba (6 tickets)
  • Beef Soujok – Egyptian sausage, onions, tomatos, lettuce, parsley, pita with secret garlic sauce – from Egypt (6 tickets)
  • Potato Stew from Ireland (7 tickets)
  • Potato Pancakes – Mashed potatoes cooked in flour – from Ireland (3 tickets)
  • Lahmacun – Ground beef ‘pizza’ – from Turkey (7 tickets)
  • Suya – Beef skewer – from Nigeria (6 tickets)
  • Sarmale – Cabbage rolls – from Romania (3 tickets)
  • Empanadas from Ecuador (4 tickets)
  • Chicken & Veggie Shish Kebab from Sudan (5 tickets)
  • Chicken Combo – chicken with rice, fulaura, momo and tomato pickle – from Nepal (10 tickets)
Some of the great dishes we tried at Heritage Festival 2014!

Some of the great dishes we tried at Heritage Festival 2014!

All three of us agreed that the Chicken & Veggie Shish Kebab from Sudan was the absolute tastiest but I also loved the Sarmale Cabbage Rolls from Romania and the Beef Soujok from Egypt was pretty tasty though presentation could have been better, lol. The Potato Pancakes from Ireland were also great and Mike’s mom really liked the Lahmacun Turkish pizza. Side note about the cabbage rolls – SO good, I loved them last year and had to come back again for more this year.

Mango's Loco - mango on a stick with lime juice and spices from Guatemala.

Mango’s Loco – mango on a stick with lime juice and spices from Guatemala.

I’d say my least favourite was probably the Mango’s Loco from Guatemala and the Chicken Combo from Nepal. I really should have just waited as we went along our walk for just regular mango on a stick – as the lime juice and spices weren’t really to my liking. The Chicken Combo I didn’t really like I think partially because it was the last thing I tried and I was already pretty stuffed – but I think the sauces just didn’t sit too well with me either.

Munching on some Suya from Nigeria.

Munching on some Suya from Nigeria.

Wooden shoes! Love the different cultural displays.

Wooden shoes! Love the different cultural displays.

Romanian folk dancers at Heritage Festival!

Romanian folk dancers at Heritage Festival!

We made a rule not to eat any Southeast Asian food because we just have that all the time and really wanted to focus on trying new foods from different countries. Overall we had a fantastic time at Heritage Festival (as usual). It really is such a great event and lets you take a “trip around the world” without even leaving our fine city. :)

Summary of how to Heritage Fest my way:

  • Take the shuttle (remember to bring change for transit fare)
  • Go first thing in the morning (avoid heat, crowds and crazy line-ups)
  • Bring bottles of water (I hate wasting tickets on drinks – only spend it on food! Lol)
  • Go with a small group (better for sharing and trying as much as possible)
  • Determine a route that lets you stop at all pavilions (because you should check out everything even if just passing by!)
  • Try new food!!!!!!!!!

As an aside, I’ve always wanted to take my mom to Heritage Festival but it’s always only ever been on the Saturday, Sunday, Monday – and my mom only gets Tuesdays off! I am really hoping she can take one of those days off next year to go though because next year will be Heritage Festival’s 40th anniversary – so it’s sure to be spectacular!

Did you go to Heritage Festival this year? What were your favourite dishes??

Linda