Nashville Restaurants and Food
21 White Bridge Road
Sit next to the open kitchen. Watch the dough take a spin in the nimble hands of the chef. On to the next station, where toppings are applied quickly. See yet another chef slide the creation into the deep, bell shaped, wood fired oven with a long pizza paddle. That pizza is back out in a flash. The oven is that hot. The dough is that thin. The result: perfectly crispy crust, with just a little char here and there for flavor. It makes for one of the better pizzas in town. Porta Via is a newcomer with old roots; reborn after a stint many years ago in West Nashville. The good news is that the rest of the menu supports that pizza emphasis, making Porta Via a good bet for lunch or dinner.
You can taste the elemental pizza as the bread they serve in baskets. They toss an unadorned round of pizza dough into the oven, pull it out, and chop it up. A drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and fresh rosemary are the only accompaniments. You realize that the dough is not just crispy, but has a great taste. Of course the toppings are still critical and Porta Via serves the good stuff. The Quattro Stagioni features savory, herb sausage, roasted crimini mushrooms, earthy salami and Kalamata olives with a little vinegar bite. The result is a little crisp and a little chewy and with tons of flavor all around. Margherita is a classic example of pizza restraint at Porta Via. You won’t find the cheese and toppings piled on like a landscaping project. They respect Italian tradition by serving simple pies, with modest toppings. It allows every ingredient to sing.
Normally you might expect the rest of the menu to suffer, when so much hard work and tender care goes into making the pizza. For the most part that’s not the case at Porta Via. Start with the Crepe Florentine, it’s the ultimate comfort dish: light crepes, awash in a pesto cream bath and baked for some crispiness. It shouldn’t work, but it does. The appetizer arrives quickly enough to prevent the crepes from getting soggy.
Their signature pasta dish, the Porta Via, let’s you pick a pasta. We went with whole wheat linguine. While we got normal linguine, and that was a disappointment, it was light and carefully cooked. The bright tomato cream sauce has parmesan to thicken. Not great pasta or sauce by any means, but comforting. The Provencal Panini is a tangy Greek, feta salad stuffed into half of a warm French baguette. The warm chewy break snaps with the cold, tart salad. It’s a surprisingly fitting combination.
Veggie Eater: This makes for an enjoyable, if not perfect meal. Let’s start with the highlights. The tables near the kitchen allow a bird’s eye view of the process. In general, the staff and management appear to be having a good time. The restaurant has a fun, chic vibe, right down to the flat ware (really, check it out if you go). The big glasses of Yuengling beer are cheap. I love thin, crisp pizza, so this is my preferred version. The crust is allowed to take center stage, not drowned out by an excess of ingredients. And there are lots of fun ingredients to be had: arugula, egg, pine nuts, roasted onions, garlic, etc. That being said, I found my pizza, which was a make your own version consisting of arugula, garlic, and mushrooms, a bit stingy on the mushrooms. If I’m paying for the topping, I want to be able to see it. My other quibble was with the Caprese salad. Really, I should know better than to order a salad consisting of tomatoes and basil in December; it’s my own fault. But if a restaurant chooses to keep this item on the menu in winter, then I feel they have a responsibility to find edible tomatoes. These were the standard mealy, tasteless things we all buy at the grocery store because we believe we must have a tomato in December. Again, shame on me. The fresh milk mozz was refrigerator cold, so it lacked a bit in both flavor and texture. Last, but not least, I am not a big salter and I rarely reach for a shaker. However, I do believe salt has a place. Salt and a generous round of freshly ground pepper would have been appreciated. Alas, there were no shakers on the tables and no offer of a pepper mill.
Meat Eater: This is a bright, modern space with a warm feeling due to the open kitchen and friendly, bustling staff. It lives somewhere in the middle ground between casual and upscale. While we haven’t had room for gelato yet, it looks tempting. We paid $48 with tax and tip for two beers, two pizzas and an appetizer. The other visit was $38 with tax and tip for two beers, an appetizer, a sandwich and pasta.
Sunday, January 24, 2010
Nashville Restaurants and Food