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Restaurant review: Port, Pickering

We set sail for Port in Pickering where Jesse Vallins has created a menu that ranges from wood-fired pizza to inventive pasta and fresh seafood.

In a nutshell

Port had been open for over a decade when a fire badly damaged the property. They closed down for a year of renovations and in August 2019 reopened with a brand new look and feel.

Navy blue walls, high ceilings and a design that’s reminiscent of a boathouse carry a nautical theme throughout the spacious restaurant. Right on Frenchman’s Bay with large windows overlooking the water, Port definitely earns its name. Cushy banquettes and attentive service coupled with TVs for watching the game give the place an elevated but casual atmosphere.

What’s on the menu

Jesse Vallins, executive chef at both Port and its sister restaurant Maple Leaf Tavern, has created a menu that leans Mediterranean with plenty of Italian options in the mix.

Almost everything is made from scratch, right down to the sauces and condiments, some of the pasta and even the pizza dough. And Port is the only restaurant in the area with a wood-burning pizza oven. Go for their take on a Hawaiian, topped with smoked pork shoulder, hot peppers and grilled pineapple.

The clam chowder gnocchi, featuring the pillowy dumplings drenched in a white wine cream sauce with clams and bacon, was a total knockout. Sweet-and-spicy Brussels sprouts were also memorable.

Why it’s worth the trip

There are plenty of things that Toronto has an abundance of, but waterfront restaurants just aren’t one of them. The trek to Pickering is worth it for Port’s lakeside dining ambience alone – birds diving for fish are surprisingly entertaining – plus there’s a prime patio for warmer months.

Another draw (especially when the weather warms up) is their frozen slushy cocktail feature. During our visit it was a booze-forward amaretto sour that we could sip on all year long. The Stealth Margarita is a refreshing take on the fan favourite.

On top of all that, the menu of rich and flavourful fare is worth the visit in its own right.

Dinner and drinks for two: around $75.

1289 Wharf St, Pickering; (905) 839-7678; portrestaurant.ca

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