Walking into the newly renovated Porto Bello restaurant is like entering a tropical oasis. The outside, overlooking a quiet corner of the Safe Harbor Greenport marina, flows between cozy booths, yellow umbrellas and iron tables surrounded by the rare site of palm trees on the North Fork. Inside, where the biggest changes have taken place, every seat has a view of the water, even the bar seats tucked in the back. And this was exactly what Peter Harbes and Bruce Garritano wanted to do when they took over back in March from longtime owner Diana DiVello.
“Our goal was to open it up,” Harbes said. “It’s nice because you can feel like you’re somewhere else. We always were in Greenport Village, but it’s Greenport Village’s hidden gem. We wanted it to be airy, open and comfortable.” Inside, bright and white walls reflect the light coming in from the massive windows that look out onto the marina. Lush plants fill the corners to give a tropical feel.
“When you come in here and you walk through the door, you could be anywhere in the world,” Garritano added. “It’s our own little private island.”
The plan wasn’t always to renovate this year. Harbes, who is lifelong North Fork native, and Garritano, who has lived here for over 25 years, officially took over in the beginning of March, and intended to put changes in place after having one summer season under their belt. But with no prospect of safely opening in the beginning of the season, the first-time restauranteurs—who also own a construction company together—decided now would be the best time to revamp the space.
After completing what they call ‘phase 1’ of renovations, they said they have even more changes coming soon. “This place will ever be evolving,” Garritano said.
“There’s some surprises ahead of us,” Harbes added. “We’re in it for the long haul. We plan on being here for a long time.” Although they didn’t reveal too much about exactly what those surprises are, they did say a raw bar is in the works.
The Mediterranean-inspired menu, showing off locally sourced ingredients, is all new too and will change with the seasons. Some of their best sellers thus far are the Montauk Tuna Crudo with charissa, pineapple, jalapeno and crispy Prosciutto, the Garganelli alla Vodka, a creamy pink sauce made with smoked pancetta and Pecorino Romano cheese and the Greek-style lamb meatballs with lemon and tzatziki.
Although Harbes and Garritano have made significant changes to the cosmetics of Porto Bello, they recognized the decades of work previous owner DiVello had put into it for more than three decades, and it’s exactly the reason they kept the name.
“We didn’t see any reason to change the name,” Garritano said. “It was something Diana built, and we didn’t feel we had the right to change the name.” The name means “beautiful port” in Italian, he added, and that’s exactly where the restaurant is situated.
“We had big shoes to fill,” Harbes added. “It was great to be two local people, keeping [the restaurant] within the community. But I’m happy with the feedback that we’ve been getting. It makes me feel like we’re doing the right thing.”
Porto Bello is open for indoor and outdoor dining and take-away Monday, Tuesday and Thursday 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.. 1410 Manhanset Avenue, Greenport, 631-477-1515.