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Customers at Pizzeria Portofino can watch boat pass by when sitting by the river.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

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Inside Chicago Riverwalk’s Sparkling Italian Riviera-Style Pizzeria

Lettuce Entertain You unveils Pizzeria Portofino along the Chicago River

Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

While Chicagoans bustle above, walking back and forth from River North to the Loop, the vibe is relaxed under the bridges and riverside at Pizzeria Portofino. Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’s opened the restaurant on Monday, debuting thin-crust pizzas, coal-fired seafood, and a bevy of sparkling beverages near Clark Street and the Chicago River. The pizzeria is part of Lettuce’s four-level restaurant space that includes RPM On the Water, an upscale seafood restaurant slated to open this fall or early winter.

The pizzeria sits on the same level as the riverwalk, with patio seating overlooking the water. Customers could wave to guest sipping drinks on the river’s south bank at Tiny Tapp. The look and menu is inspired by the Italian Riviera. The wait staff is dressed in shirts with horizontal stripes like Italian gondoliers. But LEYE still retains its roots as the kitchen is using Midwestern grains in the pizza dough which produces a light crust. Varieties include Due Funghi (roasted mushrooms, mozzarella, red onion, porcini creme) and Piccante Verde (Cerignola olives, fior di latte, basil pesto, pepperoncini). The seafood options are supposed to be a preview of RPM On the Water’s menu.

LEYE retained the services of the Rockwell Group to design the space, pouring at least $50 million into rebuilding the former Bridge House Tavern. Customers could ride an elevator or descend down the concrete stairs to the restaurant. The riverside setting is an atypical situation. Valet parking is available, but will have to turn in the driveway just north of the restaurant. Once downstairs, veer to the left, and talk to the host to be seated indoors or outdoors. Umbrellas shelter diners from the sun, while boats passing by on the river are welcome to dock in front of the restaurant.

The interiors are reminiscent of recent LEYE restaurant openings Aba and Ema. It’s a clean design with a bar inside the narrow space. The Melmans, the family behind Lettuce Entertain You, plan to open RPM On the Water, a spinoff of RPM Italian and RPM Steak. Those restaurants are collaborations with celebrity couple Bill and Giuliana Rancic. The Rancics have their fans which will make for good patio watching. Pizzeria Portofino reservations are available via Tock.

Take a look at the space below, as the city of Chicago tries to bring more attention to the river.

Pizzeria Portofino is on the same level as the Chicago Riverwalk.
Boats can dock right in front.
Take the stairs or the elevator at Clark and the Chicago River.
Welcome to Pizzeria Portofino.
The space is meant to transport diners to the Italian Riviera.
A view of the entrance.
The bar is located in the back.
The greenery makes it feel like Aba, Lettuce Entertain You’s Fulton Market spot.
The majority of the tables are in the back.
These windows swing out.
This is the private dining space.
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago

The space screams for sparkling beverages.

Burrata Diavolo Pizza
Piccante Verde Pizza
Barry Brecheisen/Eater Chicago
Focaccia di Stefano
Seafood Misto
Beet Carpaccio
Mediterranean Salad
Profiteroles Bianco
Portofino Spritz

RPM On the Water

317 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 Visit Website

Pizzeria Portofino

317 North Clark Street, , IL 60654 (312) 900-9018 Visit Website
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