Posted on: October 28, 2013

Porto Expands Menu With More Entrees, Salads, Appetizers, Desserts -- and (Of Course) Artisan Pizzas

Call them hidden culinary gems -- unpretentious, tucked-away cafes and restaurants in Italy, where diners delight in superb wine and sublime homemade fare prepared with fresh, authentic ingredients. 
 
Although located thousands of miles away on Maui, Porto Mediterranean Grill and Pizzeria is one of those hidden finds for anyone seeking true artisan pizza and authentic Italian fare, all the more delectable thanks to the exquisite flavors of fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits grown on Maui's rich volcanic soils. 
 
With a dramatically expanded menu now featuring 25 new items and a new selection of 20 wines under $30, Porto offers more reasons than ever for diners to seek it out --  and be delighted. 
 
"We're getting rave reviews about all of our new menu items, especially our 'Grape N Gorg,' pizza  with sweet red grapes, mozarella, porvolone, gorgonzola cheese, Italian sausage and fresh rosemary," says Porto Chef Joe Birrer. "Another new and popular choice is our San Piero, with fig jam, proscuitto, asiago, mozzarella, gorgonzola, parmesan and a balsamic reduction." 
 
The new pizzas have joined menu favorites including the "Ananas E Maiale Hawaiian" pizza featuring kaula pork and Maui pineapple and the "Garlic Lemon Braised Chicken and Pesto" pizza prepared with Surfing Goat Dairy chevre, housemade pesto, roasted pine nuts and Kula Dave's tomatoes. 
 
A house-made dough prepared fresh daily with authentic semolina flour is the starting point for Porto's artisan pizzas. Each pizza is hand tossed and flame-grilled in a copper and stone oven, then served hot to your table on wooden paddles. All of the sauces are also house made, featuring fresh basil from Evonuk Farms in Kula and also from Chef Birrer's own farm in Upcountry Maui. 
 
"Our extraordinary flavors come from authentic ingredients and the freshness of the vegetables, herbs and fruits, plus chevre, from our local Maui farmers," says Chef Birrer. "Everything is all natural or organic." 
 
Porto's pasta menu has been expanded to include Eggplant Parmesan made with Maui-grown eggplant, Vegetarian Lasagna with thin, slow-dried slices of local eggplant and yellow squash in lieu of some of the noodles and Chicken Frascati featuring grilled chicken breasts sauteed with Maui red onion, fresh rosemary, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, garlic and frascati butter. 
 
Porto offers new appetizers including Wood-fired Roasted Almonds with truffle oil, rosemary and spices, Pan Fried Artichoke Hearts with truffle oil and lemon aioli and Rustic Bruscheta with Kula Dave's tomatoes. The zesty homemade Minestrone Soup incorporates Kula Dave's tomatoes, Maui onions, organic carrots, roasted red peppers, celery, zucchini and fresh Maui herbs. 
 
Porto's Caprese Salad, Caesar Salad, Maui Mista Salad and Roasted Beet Salad are also crisp and inviting, prepared fresh with local Maui vegetables. 
 
"We kept the creativity going for our expanded dessert selection," says Chef Birrer. "We have a Kula Strawberry Shortcake, a Flourless Chocolate Torte, Blueberry Cheesecake, Brownie a La Mode and our favorite -- the Pizzookie -- with house made chocolate chip cookie dough baked in a cast iron skillet in our pizza oven, served hot and topped with vanilla ice cream."
 
It's admittedly hard to find Porto at the Ma'alaea Harbor Shops, but park your car in front of Maui Ocean Center, walk to the Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Store and continue past -- Porto is on your right. The restaurant is cozy and inviting inside, with a patio dining area outside with peekaboo ocean views and a nearby children's play area. 
 
"Parents love Porto," says Chef Birrer. "We have a menu for keiki and with our outdoor seating, Mom and Dad can enjoy a leisurely meal while keeping an eye on their tots playing on our soft-surfaced play area." 
 
Since its opening two years ago, Porto has often been ranked as the #1 Wailuku area restaurant on Trip Advisor.  Porto offers take out dining. Its menu can be viewed at www.portomaui.com. To order or for reservations, call (808) 856-8337. 
 
Porto's prices are reasonable, with large 14" long pizzas priced at $20 to $22 and 4" pizzettes available for $12 to $13. Pasta entrees are $8 to $12. 
 
 During Happy Hour, from 3:30 to 5:30 pm daily, Porto prices all of its appetizers at $6 and its pizzettes at $7. Local microbrew beer is $3, wines by the glass are $6 and all sodas, house brewed tea and home made lemonade are $2. 
 
Porto is owned by Pacific Whale Foundation. "This is all about pizza with a purpose," says Scott Snowden, Food and Beverage Operations Manager at Pacific Whale Foundation. "All profits from Porto support Pacific Whale Foundation's efforts to protect our ocean through science and advocacy."
 
Join Pacific Whale Foundation and you'll save 20% on the already reasonable prices at Porto throughout your year-long membership. New members can choose any pizza on Porto's menu free as a thank you gift for joining. To learn more, call Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811 ext. 1 or visit www.pacificwhale.org.