Al Porto (Gastown)
You know that restaurant that you have always wanted to check out, that you think it’s going to totally rock your boat and then sort of disappoints you with a series of mishaps that you did not expect, and most likely neither did the staff? Yeah. That was the case with Al Porto in Gastown. A gorgeous restaurant, extremely spacious, brick-walls, amazing decor and a view of the mountains on the North Shore that many businesses would envy. And a lovely staff.
Sadly, I was quite disappointed with my lunch there recently. Admittedly, perhaps the expectation was too high. I had heard great things about Al Porto. But our server, lovely as he was, really had mishap, after mishap, after mishap. And at some point I just simply stopped caring about whether my food was ok or not, and whether the service was going to get better. I looked around and other lunch attendees had a wonderful experience. I could see it in their interaction with the server. My drink, I should say, was actually pretty good (a Zapphire)
Sadly, my experience was pretty much this short of bad. The food was not the complaint. The chef complied exactly with what I wanted (I ordered the $12 special for soup and a pasta for lunch). I requested that my French onion soup did not have cheese (and they were kind enough to remove the cheese from a cheese-covered crostini). BUT they left the cheese in my Caesar salad. Oooops. I got overcharged on a drink (which was removed from my bill, yet the delay in the food was quite unacceptable because… well, they brought me canelloni instead of what I had ordered in the first place).
My pasta (a simple Penne Puttanesca that is really hard to screw up) was tasty, but comparatively speaking, I’ve had better Puttanesca elsewhere (with the best being at Tapenade Bistro in Steveston, Richmond BC). Not to say that it wasn’t good but the texture was a bit on the chewy side (similar to what I had at Pacifico Pizzeria) and not “al dente”. Frankly, I totally think that this was one bad day on a generally good restaurant and specifically on my meal, because the rest of the folks I saw chatting over lunch seemed to be enjoying their food.
I’ll probably give Al Porto a second try. Not soon, but at least I will do it again. It’s inexpensive, it has a beautiful view, the food is ok, and the most important thing: the staff tries SO HARD. But the series of mishaps that occurred on the day I went there for lunch really left me with the impression I might come back another time… in 2012.
More information on Al Porto:
Gastown’s popular Water Street is alive with the taste of another era. Meander down the cobbled sidewalk and stumble across a true find, the uniquely situated Al Porto Ristorante. Spacious yet cozy, the room is as distinct as the cuisine that defines the rich flavour and culture of Italy. Candlelight and a warm welcome await you as you cross through the iron-gate.
Al Porto Ristorante
321 Water Street
I paid for my lunch on my own dime.