One doesn't have to be a great mathematician to figure out the formula behind Porto Fino's instant popularity. For starters, there's location: in the heart of Huntington and across the street from the new Paramount theater, a major music venue. Then, there's genre: part pizzeria, part trattoria -- in short, Long Island's favorite kind of eatery. Add to that a crew both warm and caring. And -- the prime ingredient -- good, hearty food that's priced to please.
The downside here is that you may have to wait for your table -- even with reservations. But that inconvenience was forgotten once I became involved with an individual-size pan pizza, the closest I've come on Long Island to Chicago-style pie. The rim is flaky, imbued with a pure, clean flavor, the tomato, mozzarella and basil topping bright and fresh. The only shortfall: Beneath the sauce, the dough is a tad undercooked. Another time, two of us share a crisp-crusted Margherita pizzette that's light and herbal. Pasta e fagioli amounts to a hot bowl of comfort. I like the way the crunch of a rice ball yields to a rich, cheesy interior. But a Caesar salad, while decent, doesn't deliver the salty anchovy hit I crave.
Pepperoncini, or spicy pickled peppers, add kick to an entree of chicken Palermo, tender boneless breasts with artichokes and peas in a garlic and wine sauce. Citrusy chicken Francese can be cut with a fork.
Here, jumbo shrimp oreganata are nicely executed, topped with house-made bread crumbs before being broiled and served in a good and garlicky "scampi" sauce. Lots of garlic shows up in a side dish of sauteed broccoli, too. In contrast, penne alla vodka turns out to be a rather timid affair. In fact, it's outclassed by a gratis side of pasta with a tomato sauce made from a 100-year-old family recipe of chef-co-owner Augie Palmieri.
Consider having breakfast for dinner in the form of a frittata. The thin, oven-baked omelet is studded with lots of sausage, ham and pepperoni, served with a ramekin of tomato sauce.
Optimal conclusions: a wedge of airy Italian cheesecake or creamy tiramisu, to be had with a well-made espresso.