I dropped in for an early dinner on a weekday, and was instantly greeted and seated. Service was both friendly and efficient from beginning to end of what turned out to be a very memorable night out.
My dinner companion and I ordered the calamari and stuffed portobello mushrooms to start, and both were fantastic. A previous reviewer commented on how the flavors are so "naked that on first bite it tasted like nothing I've had before." This statement is absolutely true for the food here - the calamari was so refreshingly "simple", yet complex in a way that I've never experienced before. The natural flavor of calamari was front and center, with the sauce serving to highlight and accentuate (not to overwhelm.) It is easy to season and dress up ingredients, but it takes the greatest skill to preserve and compliment the natural flavors of what you're working with.
I next had the gnocchi alla cardinale, and it was easily the best gnocchi I've ever had. The Georgia Straight wasn't kidding when it crowned it "Best Gnocchi in Vancouver." The creme brulee and tiramisu were very good as well.
The decor and ambience are both excellent - it is quite a romantic and cozy restaurant, and the careful placement of mirrors grants all diners a look into the open kitchen where the expert chefs create their food.
For a high end Italian restaurant, the bill was surprisingly small. I've easily spent over twice the amount of money at Cioppino's, and the quality of the food is very comparable between the two establishments.
Portobello Ristorante is one of the hidden gems of Vancouver, and I will definitely be back.