Unless you really paid attention to their social media, you may not have noticed a couple of big changes at Porta Napoli. Quietly, just over a year ago, the Halstead Avenue Italian eatery changed hands. Its former owners, Roger and Sandra Cappucci, put the restaurant up for sale only to find a buyer in their own family. The Cappucci’s sold the place to Sandra’s aunt, Graziella Maffei-Rogliano and her partners Franceso Maffei and Roberto Canonico. This trio — residents of Eastchester, Port Chester, and Mamaroneck respectively — of Southern Italians kept the Porta Napoli name, but they had menu changes in mind.
“We wanted Porta Napoli to be known as more than just a pizza place,” said Canonico, who’s also the restaurant’s head chef.
They started by hiring an Italian staff and a pizza chef who hails from Naples to make the menu geared more towards authentic Neapolitan cuisine. Now they’ve unleashed an array of seafood and pasta dishes, fettuccine with wild boar meat sauce, and plenty of meat and fish entrées that didn’t exist on the menu previously. What’s more is the focus of doing things in-house like baking fresh bread, making homemade mozzarella, and all that pasta — yeah, that’s made on the premises too.
Porta Napoli’s wood-fired oven cranks up to 900 F degrees, cooking pizzas in about 90 seconds.
â€‹Canonico even shared that Porta Napoli will offer the full menu all day and specials based on what ingredients he can find locally. “We want to keep our menu as fresh as possible,” he said. “If I go to the fish market or other markets and find something interesting, I’ll make a dish and put it on (the menu). Even if you request an Italian dish and we have the stuff to make it, we will.”
Head Chef, Roberto Canonico
Even though Porta Napoli makes plenty of composed Neapolitan dishes, shaking that whole “pizza place” title might be tough. It’s THAT good. In fact, it’s better than before. It’s light, not-at-all-filling, that appropriate mix of crispy/chewy like quality Neapolitan pizza should have; all the result of a new (secret) dough recipe and a 24-40-hour fermentation window. Then it’s up to you. Choose a red sauce pie or a sauceless — but equally impressive — white pie. Some are classic like the Margherita, marinara, or throw a wrinkle in those popular pizzas by turning up the heat with the diavola, basically a Margherita with the added meaty pleasure of hot soppressata. Need more spiciness? Ask for the Calabrian chili-infused oil that’s worth drizzling on everything. If you’re a fan of white pies, the rucola e prosciutto (fresh mozzarella, arugula, basil, prosciutto slices) is a big seller or keep it simple with the bianca (fresh mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil). I enjoyed the cardinale (fresh mozz, parm, prosciutto cotto, chopped hard-boiled egg, basil); comparable to a breakfast sandwich, but in pizza form.
Italian salads are well represented like the Polpo; plenty of tender octopus with celery, tomatoes, and Kalamata olives on a bed of frisee.
Besides the improvements to the pizza and the menu overhaul, Porta Napoli has added a more extensive wine list with vinos at both ends of the price spectrum. They’ve also started to make lots of Italian desserts in-house including pear and Nutella pie, sfogliatella, sfinge aka Saint Joseph’s zeppole, and torta della nonna (translated: grandma’s cake), a tart with French vanilla cream and pignoli nuts.
There’s clearly a lot to like about the revamped Porta Napoli and lots of tasty new bites to be had here. We’ll let you get on that.
261 Halstead Ave
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