Fellow Chowhound reviews of Il Porcino Ristorante on Solano in Albany (see reviews further down on list from 7/23-7/25) kept me away from this restaurant. Reviews in other places also discouraged me from trying. However, last night, I had an immense craving for Italian cuisine. I decided I would try Il Porcino Ristorante. I figured if the food was bad I would post my experience here and it would be in agreement with everyone else. However, I was wrong. I walked into the restaurant with an expectation that the food would not be good and that I would be posting a negative review. Instead I left glowing, delighted that the food was excellent. I was eager to let my fellow Chowhounds know what I had experienced!
Now it is possible that in July, the food wasnt good. Perhaps, in response to patrons disappointment, the management decided to improve the food. That is why I usually request my fellow Chowhounds to try a restaurant a few months after a bad review to see if the food has improved. If the food at Il Porcino wasnt good in July, it must have improved dramatically by September!
First was the focaccia. I am almost always disappointed with it. It is usually heated with butter to disguise its mediocrity. The focaccia at Il Porcino was soft, nicely textured and had a wonderful flavor. I had to resist from having third helpings.
I then had Insalata Il Porcino. It was very refreshing with mixed greens, melon and orange. I split it with my wife.
Next was the red lentil soup. The flavor of the lentils was pronounced, but gentle, serenaded with a hint of cream. I would definitely order this again.
By this time I was feeling a little full, but the main dishes were on their way! I had the Penne Con Salsicia. The sauce was handcrafted. Now just because a sauce is handcrafted doesnt always mean its good. At Il Porcino, the handcrafted nature of the sauce is very good. I kept savoring the sauce, analyzing the different tonalities of the flavors. My wife had the Scaloppini Al Porcini. I tried hers and noticed that the veal was very fresh and good tasting. Also the sauce had a distinctly veal taste. Most restaurants will try to get away with using one sauce on everything. Unless the wool was pulled over my eyes, the sauces for each dish at Il Porcino were distinct.
Stuffed, I ordered dessert. I had the Ciocolata Mousse. It was one of the finest mousses I have ever had! Initially, I was so stuffed I thought I would have just one or two spoonfuls. However, stuffed as I was, it tasted so good, I scarfed the whole thing down! My wife had the Tiramisu. I am not a tiramisu lover, but I have to say, even stuffed with the mousse, I devoured every bite of tirimisu my wife would let have. Both desserts were homemade. Now homemade doesnt automatically mean good, but at Il Porcino, homemade is very good.
So what is my overall impression of Il Porcino Ristorante? I would say that it is an excellent restaurant to go to those few times a year when you want rich homestyle Italian food. The atmosphere is very pleasant and unique. The service is very good as well and friendly. Would I go to this restaurant for fusion cuisine? Probably not. There are other restaurants that offer that. However, I would definitely return to this restaurant on a cold winters night and enjoy the red lentil soup and focaccia bread. I would have a hearty bountiful pasta dish and finish off with a homemade dessert. Maybe even order a dessert wine if I still had room.
Il Porcino Ristorante on Solano in Albany is an excellent restaurant that fellow Chowhounds should seriously consider giving a second look.