Cafe Porta Alba
In a word: New Neapolitan nosh nook nets notice.
The specs: #0221
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews: Isthmus 1/4/07, 6/10/08, 1/8/10; Yelp, Welcome to my Pantry, Christopher Robin's Fresh Foods, Fearful Symmetries, Dane101, Gregor the Cat, Driftless Appetite: 11/15/09, 7/4/10, Ruppert Food Blog, Onion AV Club, Table Talk with the owners; official web site,
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JM ate the Margherita con Prosciutto with a Sprite.
John ate the Margherita con Salame with a glass of wine.
Judith ate the Funghi with a glass of wine.
John and Judith split the Emiliana salad.
Nichole ate the pizza Napoletana with a Coke.
We also got a piece of tiramisu, slice of chocolate mousse cake and 2 espressos.
The bill was about $80, or $20/person, plus tip.
John and Judith gave Cafe Porta Alba an A+; JM and Nichole gave Cafe Porta Alba an A (see our grading rubric).
Cafe Porta Alba lives where Butler Cafe used to be, in a small ground floor space under some downtown condos. The dining room has been made smaller by the addition of the star of the cafe, the wood fired pizza oven that cooks pies in moments. (By the time you read to this point, it would have cooked an entire pizza.)
We couldn't resist starting with some sodas in cute 8-oz. bottles. The concept turned out to be better than the execution, since the carbonation all fizzled out when our server poured the drinks over ice. And that's about all we have to say that's critical of Cafe Porta Alba (beware: fawning ahead, which we guess could use a DEER CROSSING sign).
John and Judith, regulars at the cafe, tried the Salad Emiliana, which was full of fresh greens and lots of lovely parmesan shavings. Between us, we sampled about a third of the pizza offerings, sadly not including pizza Bambino (yum, fresh babies).
JM's margherita con proscuitto was very good. Substantially flavored but light on the stomach, the pizza's overall quality was very high. If you don't expect normal, middle of the road American pizzas (or round ones either), appreciating these instead for their own merits, you'll have a wonderful time.
Nichole found it's best to eat the pizza fast, when it's right out of the oven. The pizza Napolitano was a very hostiptable introduction to anchovies, those wonderful salty little fishies. Future encouters with anchovies are definitely called for.
John got the salame pizza with genoa salami. He called it an absolutely perfect blend of tastes - the crust, the fresh mozzarella, the tomatoes and the salame, with just a little basil. The crust was superb, we all agreed.
Pizza con funghi, Judith's choice, was also delicious, with a nice amount of very tender and flavorful mushrooms.
For dessert, we had to pass up several choices including grandmother cake (now with 50% more grandma!) and nutella pizza. The tiramisu and chocolate mousse cake turned out to be winners, though.
John and Judith had (repeatedly) missed out on the tiramisu on their previous visits, but luck was with us tonight. Creamy and light, sweet but not cloying, the tiramisu was rich, decadent and delicious.
The chocolate mousse cake was light and very chocolatey. Our desserts were complemented by a great espresso. Yahm, is all we can say.