In his memoir “Life on the Mississippi,” author Mark Twain wrote about the siege of the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi, during the Civil War.
Citizens who survived the siege told Twain that that the worst part of the siege wasn’t the shelling, violence and hunger, but rather the dreary sameness of day-to-day existence with nothing to do. One man who lived through described it thus:
“It got to be Sunday all the time. Seven Sundays in the week — to us, anyway. We hadn’t anything to do, and time hung heavy.”
As for the present, my dining partner has seen to it that time is not hanging heavy in our household. For starters, we have been shunning cable television in favor of print. This has given the two of us time to ourselves instead of the tube, time to complete some long overdue home projects, and also stay in contact with the other members of the dine-around bunch.
The Dieter and Carnivore are still reducing exposure by voluntarily staying inside their home. The two of them have been reading, watching movies and using Facetime to keep in touch with family and friends. The Retiree’s required two weeks of isolation has been completed with a clean bill of health. To celebrate, we invited our world-traveling friend to stop by and visit a spell. Our friend did just that, and brought along something for the three of us to munch on.
Portobello’s Italian Bistro is located in the Kroger Shopping Center on West State of Franklin Road in Johnson City, and has been a favorite of my dining partner and the rest of the dine-around bunch for some time now. Though the dining room may be temporarily closed, owner Sherif and his attentive staff are still serving the hungry public from Portobello’s varied and excellent menu, which is what the Retiree ordered from and brought over for us to share.
The Retiree arrived, toting a pizza box under her arm which she presented to my dining partner with the words, “I hope you like my choice of toppings.” The contents of the box proved to be one of Portobello’s specialty pizzas, a 14-inch Greek pizza ($15.99). This is one of the best and most mouth-watering vegetarian pizzas anywhere, and a special favorite of both the Retiree and the Dieter. For starters, there is the pizza dough made fresh, hand-tossed and properly “rested” at Portobello’s every day. The sauce used is Portobello’s own proprietary red sauce, a slowly-simmered marinara made from scratch and spread upon the surface of the resting pizza dough. The toppings are next, beginning with a good handful of sliced black olives. Some quick-steamed fresh spinach leaves are next, followed by a dice of seeded, ripe Roma tomatoes. Feta cheese cubes made from properly brined and processed sheep’s milk are mixed in with the vegetables.
Lastly, the pizza receives its topping of freshly-grated mozzarella cheese before a short stint in Portobello’s very hot pizza oven. This is not the usual chain-store-pizza parlor pie, but a properly baked vegetarian creation containing the freshest of ingredients prepared with care and sliced into six pieces, by the professionals in Portobello’s kitchen.
The Retiree, my dining partner and I lingered long over our fourteen-inch Greek Pizza from Portobello’s, savoring the nutty flavor base imparted by the noble, properly baked pizza dough. The sour tanginess of the marinara sauce and diced tomato was also remarked upon, as was the oily pungency of the black olives, the edgy saltiness of the feta cheese and the creamy flavor of the melted mozzarella.
The bottom line
Though social distancing and the Six-Foot Rule may be the norm during our current month of Sundays, places like Portobello’s Italian Bistro are there to chase away the day’s dreary sameness, making our time inside that much more enjoyable and delicious. The friendship, attention and care Sherif and his team show to each customer is a gentle reminder of the way things once were and, hopefully, will be again. Portobello’s offers take-out and curbside delivery, as well as home delivery. Please be kind and remember to tip the staff and/or the driver, so we can all make it through our month of Sundays.
Portobello’s Italian Bistro
1805 W. State of Franklin Road, Suite 400
Mon-Thu 10:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.
Fri-Sat 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m.
Sun 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Check Facebook for current updated days and hours of operations
Credit cards accepted