Porta, a multi-storied establishment serving Italian cuisine and wood-fired pizza in a hip, airy and laid-back atmosphere, stands in the middle of Jersey City's bustling pedestrian plaza on Newark Ave. They boast one of JC's best rooftop bars, a speakeasy downstairs, and their food is always fresh and flavorful. It is one of the first restaurants I ever went to when I moved to Jersey City 3 years ago, and it still remains one of the greatest spots in the city. Recently, the Have A Night team went to Porta to, well, eat everything on the menu. Or at least try!
To start off the meal, drinks! Porta has a great beer and wine selection, but we opted for hand-crafted cocktails this time. We tried two different takes on a Hurricane. The first was their standard Hurricane, with rum, pineapple and lemon juice, orgeat syrup, Burlesque bitters, and the best part: a Lambrusco float. I LOVE that Porta carries Lambrusco, a slightly carbonated red wine heavy on berry flavors. The second was the frozen drink special (which they rotate daily), the Frozen Italian Hurricane. Also topped with Lambrusco, this dark and light rum-based frozen cocktail was perfectly refreshing. I definitely will keep in mind to ask for the frozen drink special in future trips to Porta's bar. The booziest of the bunch was the Hemmingway, a Patrón and mezcal-based cocktail with hints of grapefruit, Maraschino cherry, and lime. If you like tequila, this one is delicious!
The food at Porta, like their cocktails, is simple, fresh, and delicious. Their ingredients are minimal and their dishes really allow each flavor to shine. We started with my favorite pizza on their menu, the 14 ½. The hot sopressata gives this wood-fired gem a spicy kick, and the house-made mozzarella and ricotta are so fresh. Porta's pizza sauce is so simple and straightforward – just San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy, and salt. The wood-fired ovens make for that distinct flavor, and those flavors were echoed in another dish, their Wood Fire Summer Vegetable Crudite. Complete with an incredible and unique carrot-top pesto, these veggies (zucchini, corn, onion, carrots, and tomatoes) were also cooked in the same wood-fired ovens, giving them a particularly smokey and unique flavor. We couldn't stop there, and had to try one of their pasta dishes. Bootzin is an orecchiette pasta dish that really shines with that Porta San Marzano tomato sauce. Sausage, cherry peppers, olives, and Parmigiano Reggiano rounded it out, making a perfectly-balanced pasta entrée.
And then….there was dessert. Porta saved the best for last, truly, and I now know that I will hardly be able to leave Porta in the future without finishing off my meal with one of their sweet treats. This was my first time having dessert at Porta, and they knocked it out of the park. Their carrot cake was amazingly dense and yet fluffy, with a perfectly not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting. The resounding winner of the entire meal, though, was Porta's famous Milk & Cookies. Oh. My. Gosh. Picture fresh-outta-the-oven, still warm, still soft and gooey chocolate chip cookies, but it doesn't stop there. The star of this dessert is their "cookie milk custard," which is made with crumbled sugar cookies and cream, and is one of the best things I have ever eaten. Seriously, Porta, you should jar this stuff and sell it to the public. It is incredible.
I can honestly say after eating (almost) everything at Porta, you really can't go wrong with anything on the menu. And remember: when dining at Porta, save room for dessert!
Written by Sam Cooper
Sam is a toy designer, illustrator, and graphic designer by day, and a fitness enthusiast and wanna-be chef by night. A NJ native, she has lived in Downtown Jersey City with her husband since 2014, and has fallen in love with everything JC has to offer. You can follow her beer-loving, restaurant-hopping explorations on Instagram @sam.cooper.studios!