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Porta Bella

In a word: Dated.

The specs: #0495 
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yelp, QSC, Self-Loathing Pop Culture Fanatic, Eaters Digest, Associated Content, The Culinary Adventures of Jahboh and Tossy, Ultimate Madison Bar Tour, Eat Drink Madison; official web site, Porta Bella on Urbanspoon

Latest Porta Bella news and reviews

JM and Nichole ate the catered pizza and split a cannoli.
The bill was $10 (pizza) + $10 (cannoli & tip).
JM gave Porta Bella a B-; Nichole gave Porta Bella a D+ (see our grading rubric).

Way back in the pre-A to Z days, we went to Porta Bella on a "date." We vaguely remember a small table, curtains, a bread basket. That we hadn't been back on our own in the intervening years says... something. A lot of people we talked to that remembered liking Porta Bella also hadn't been there recently. It's just possible the restaurant is resting a wee bit too much on its laurels.

CannoliSo, yes, we cheated a bit and used a holiday function to return to Porta Bella. ("Cheat" is the right word, too. Inside it feels like a throwback, somewhere that bosses in Helen Gurley Brown's day would have taken their secretaries.) By the time we arrived, the first wave of catered pizzas had gone; whether this was a client- or server-end issue we're not sure, but the phrase "you snooze, you lose" fit.

After the chafing dishes were refilled, we weren't super- impressed with the pizza, though the crust was impressively crisp. We popped upstairs for a quick dessert and took the cannoli. It grabbed our interest with sour cherries mixed into the ricotta.

As we left, a large family was arranging themselves in front of the restaurant for a holiday photo. That this literally created a line to get out of Porta Bella's walled garden was kind of amusing. We can appreciate classic Italian kitsch as well as the next guy, but would rather get our fix at the now-more-scenic Paisan's.

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Yea - my husband occasionally suggests this place, but after going there a handful of times 10 or so years ago, I've since given it the thumbs down (and have refused to go). It seems like a place that was probably "the in thing" 30 or 40 years ago, but as you guys said, it seems to be resting on its laurels. And it sounds like it's gotten worse since I've been there...

Wait, what? They cater in their pizzas? I am missing something here.

Whichever one of you picked this gross place for your date is very lucky the other one stuck around.

Not that I'm saying this ever happened, but I heard from a friend (who totally isn't me) that it was, at least a handful of years ago, a good bet for an underage person(s) who wanted to do a little drinking. Allegedly. You can't prove nothin'!

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