atlanta Brunch Buckhead

Where to have Italian food in Atlanta – Portofino in Buckhead


The pop up brunch series Portofino was doing became so popular, they changed it to a regular thing.

So you know we have a couple weekends in spring and fall where the weather is just perfect. I’m talking not a cloud in the sky, low pollen counts and low humidity. These are the days that you want to spend an afternoon on a patio, and luckily I picked such a Sunday to visit Portofino in Buckhead and sample their brunch menu.


Portofino Buckhead Dining Room


Portofino Buckhead’s beautiful decor

Portofino’s interior is light and airy, with beautiful hardwood flooring, and dark crown molding and doors. A second dining area has tile and painted brick and a wall of wine bottles. While either of these dining rooms would have been perfectly lovely for a brunch, the gorgeous Atlanta weather beckoned everyone outside.

What’s neat about Portofino’s patio is that there are two levels. First, you’ll walk into the main patio covered by an awning and partially with a pergola. The heaters suggest that the patio is used nearly year round. Walk to the rear and down several steps and you’ll find the open air patio, for those that want to bask in the sun.


Start your brunch at Portofino with an order of Zeppoli

It’s not brunch without a cocktail, right? You can choose to build your own bloody mary. By this I mean fill in your choices on a piece of paper, because who wants to get up and actually make it yourself when you are dining out?  Besides selecting vodka, choose other options your salt such as Hawaiian Black sea salt, white anchovy filet and calabrese pepper. I say skip the Bloody Mary in favor of the Paces Ferry Place (see it behind the Zeppoli above), made with  bourbon, Limoncello, peach, bitters, ginger ale. It’s strong so watch out.

Under the “For the Table” section of Portofino’s menu, you’ll find sharable carbs like muffins, biscuits and scones. But the Zeppoli is where it’s at. These are beautiful Italian doughnuts and are served with a delicate “sauce” which makes them even tastier. This dish is a steal at just $4.


Caviar lovers should get the Blini, a potato pancake served with UGA Caviar.

Brunch is and should be filling, after all, you are combining two meals. While you could move on to your mains and be completely satisfied, there are a couple worth mentioning. First is the Blini. These potato pancakes are served with a generous portion of Caviar, along with a parsley Crème Fraiche. The dish is pretty hearty, so perfect for a main for one person.


Polenta is served with sherry macerated tomato and pancetta.

If someone in your party is not getting the Shrimp and Polenta entree, you owe it to everyone to get the starter portion as a side for all to taste. I love that they went light on the cheese and serve it with colorful vegetables like the sherry macerated tomato.

There are many tempting options on the main brunch items besides the shrimp and polenta mentioned above. If you are looking for something on the sweet side, I’d go with the French Toast which is made from Ciabatta and served with currant and orange honey.


Front: Grilled Lamb, Back: Duck Benedict at Portofino in Buckhead

We went for heartier options: The Duck Benedict and the Grilled Lamb. While I liked the presentation of the duck, more like thick pieces of bacon on the side, I’d have preferred a confit under the egg, but it still tasted incredible. The better of the two dishes on Portofino’s Brunch menu that we chose was the lamb. The lamb was perfect and potato and butternut squash hash were a terrific pairing.

Brunch is served from 11:30 to 2pm on Sundays at Portofino in Buckhead. Make a reservation if you want a seat on the patio, as I can bet this is going to be hot real estate in the coming months.

View the brunch menu at Portofino here.


Portofino Italian Restaurant in Buckhead Dinner

Three things to note if you are planning to visit Porfino: 1) Forced valet is NOT complimentary  2) Regardless of a reservation or not, patio seating is first come, first serve, 3) Ladies – entrance and walkway is so NOT heel friendly.

So, you know how when you use Open Table to make a reservation, there is an option to put any special requests in for the restaurant? Well, I wrote that we were celebrating a Sweet 16 and anything they could do to make it special would be appreciated. My hopes were that Portofino staff would have brought out a dessert with a candle in it after dinner or something of the sort.

As the restaurant was rather busy, we could have been seated immediately inside or wait for the outside seating. Since it was lovely outside, we chose to wait for outdoor seating to become available. Also, the restaurant is rather noisy inside, so if it is full, don’t expect to having some romantic dinner if you sit indoors. Close to 9 a patio table at Portofino became available for us.

Our server told us that Portofino highlights a different region of Italy every month by crafting appetizers, entrees and selecting wines from said region. This month was Cambria, but the mushroom calzone appetizer didn’t sound too appealing so us, however, Glen did try one of the white wines from the region which he was very pleased with. I chose Our server recommended a Tuscan Red which was velvety and delicious.

For starters, we chose the Short Rib Bruschetta ($11) and the Fried Artichokes ($8), having heard good things about both. The Bruschetta had a very generous amount of meat on it, so much so, that the bread almost couldn’t hold up. That being said, I found this bbq-like appetizer to be mediocre but not a standout in any way. The three of us enjoyed the Fried Artichokes more and of the 2 appetizers this is a better value. The breading was the perfect temperature, crisp and not in any way salty. And the tarragon aioli served with it was a perfect compliment.

Portofino Veal

Entrees were Shrimp and Eggplant as well as the Veal Saltimbocca: Veal Scaloppine, Prosciutto, Sage, White Wine, Tomato Bacon Potato Salad, and Asparagus. Yum- what’s not to love? The veal cutlets were pounded very thin, and all the flavors seemed to play off each other well. I had a tiny bite of Glen’s Veal, which was pretty tasty, and he cleaned his plate, so he must’ve thought it to be excellent too.

Portofino Shrimp and Eggplant

I quite enjoyed my Shrimp and Eggplant dish. The medium shrimp were properly cooked and the cubed eggplant pieces were well-prepared. The Basil Pappardelle that was part of the dish tasted like it was house made. I forgot to ask and didn’t see that information on their website, but suffice it to say it was delicious and extremely filling. My only criticism of this meal is that the smoked ricotta never came through. I saw it, it was definitely there, I just didn’t taste it in the slightest.

After our plates were cleared, I was anxious to see if any special dessert was brought out, which would have been a nice touch and acknowledgment of my message via Open Table. Nothing was done, so either they didn’t get the message or chose to ignore it. We decided to skip their dessert and head down to Cafe Intermezzo where dessert options are endless as are the coffee and hot chocolate selections.

Extras: I’ve never seen a server so excited about a diner using a coupon. No, I’m not being sarcastic. She was more enthusiastic about us using our Groupon than anything else the entire evening. Go figure.

3199 Paces Ferry Place
Atlanta, Georgia 30305

About the author

Malika Bowling

Malika is the author of several books including Culinary Atlanta: Guide to the Best Restaurants, Markets, Breweries and More! and the founder of Roamilicious. She is also a Digital Marketing and Social Media Consultant. Follow us @Roamilicious on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the content not shared on the blog. And don't forget to subscribe to our newsletter (subscribe box below) and never miss a contest, giveaway or the latest must visit restaurant!