March 24, 2010 > Restaurant Review: Ristorante Il Porcino
Restaurant Review: Ristorante Il Porcino
By Denny Stein
I made a friend from Turkey last week. His family owns an Italian restaurant in Fremont, cheek by jowl with my Persian dry cleaner, two Indian restaurants, and a Mexican grocery. Ristorante Il Porcino is one of the Tri-Cities' hidden jewels. A small, romantic, white table-clothed bistro with a good wine list and sophisticated menu,
Il Porcino was opened by Sahin Akca in 1995. Mr. Akca, according to his son, had worked in restaurants, both on land and at sea, "since he was a kid." When I asked why they decided on Italian rather than Turkish fare, I was told that it was deemed more popular at the time - a thoughtful business decision. Mr. Sahin is the "Big Boss" and his sons, who were small children 15 years ago, now work with him in this restaurant venture.
Our February dinner was not the first meal we have had at Il Porcino, for it is the restaurant to which we bring out-of-town guests, even my parents. Or we go there for lunch on those days when to spend an hour in a serene, continental atmosphere with thoughtful service seems a necessity. Il Porcino is not pretentious, yet the dŽcor is European, seats are comfortable, opera plays in the background and the food lives up to its descriptions.
Service is often provided by Cźneyt ("June8") Akca, one of the owner's sons, or his brother. Both are charming and attentive, but what you feel is their sense of pride and care about the restaurant. The Akcas have also opened another Il Porcino in Los Altos recently so the family is spreading across the Bay.
Our entrŽe choices that night were dishes with variety: Antipasto for Two, Cioppino, and the Rack of Lamb. The Antipasto was a full and colorful display, including ingredients that were a challenge for the season. The honeydew melon slice, surprisingly, was full of sweet honey taste, better even than I had in the Caribbean a week later. Grilled eggplant and zucchini, artichoke hearts, and sweet roasted peppers, fresh tomato and basil with mozzarella, and citrus slices added up to enough for four, rather than two.
Cioppino is an Italian fish stew which incorporates salmon, mussels, bay scallops, Dungeness crab, prawns, clams and calamari, with a light, basil tomato sauce served over angel hair pasta. Dr. Park remarked that the sauce was delicate but held its own with the freshness and multiplicity of the perfectly cooked sea food... not an easy accomplishment, I would think. The Rack of Lamb was served in a red wine reduction sauce, which empowered the tender and succulent lamb, without overpowering it. Around the lamb was a simple serving of pasta and a medley of buttery julienned spring vegetables. Bread service is a fresh, rustic Focaccia with a tender crumb and a chewy yet delicately herbed crust. It is served with a garlic and balsamic infused olive oil.
Not a bad bite in the house.
Though often, when visiting a restaurant, dessert seems overwhelming, it is this writer's responsibility to forge ahead. Thus Chocolate Mousse and Tiramisu came to the table. No disappointments here either; classic desserts, expertly prepared, all in the small kitchen at the back of the restaurant. For those who like wine with dinner, there is a respectable wine list, including a selection of Ports, Sherrys, and Dessert Wines.
As we lingered over dessert, Cźneyt pulled up a chair and we talked about food and traveling and Turkey. Before the evening was over, he had given us a list of foods we "have to eat" when we go to Istanbul, and we had promised to bring back photos of our trip. Heading out the door, I looked back at the Akca family sitting down to dinner, the newest family member barely a year old, surrounded by love and tradition. That is what you find at Ristorante Il Porcino.
Reviewed February 23, 2010
Ristorante Il Porcino
3339 Walnut Ave., Fremont