As the owner of a romantic B&B in a town with loads of great restaurants, I am often asked about where to have dinner in Portsmouth for a special occasion. I am always happy to recommend Ristorante Massimo because it has the three most important qualities of a top romantic dining spot: atmosphere, service and great food.
When you enter Massimo’s you are greeted by warm colors and soft wood paneling before you get a big smile and friendly hello from Massimo himself. The dining room has brick and wood walls adorned with oil paintings of beautiful scenes of Italy gently illuminated with small gallery lights. The whole room radiates love, comfort and elegance without a bit of stiffness or pretense.
Located in the lower level of the historic Custom House building, the restaurant takes full advantage of the architecture which creates nooks and alcoves for tables of two or four without separating you from the hum of the dining room. If you are planning a private party, these is a separate room for up to 20 of your friends. Massimo or Davide will help you with all the details.
After you are settled in, the staff will acquaint you with the select wine list and you can pour over Chef Jericho Loichle’s latest offerings. Tempting anti-pasti lead you into small plates of hand made pastas most available as appetizer or main course. Sauces you will recognize such as Carbonara and Bolognese sit alongside Carne di Maiale Affumicata, or smoked and braised pork served with house-made chickpea gnocchi, sautéed dandelion greens and ricotta salata.
Soups, salads and main courses follow with the emphasis moving from pasta to meats and seafood. Duck, veal, beef, lobster and salmon all find their places on the Secondi menu. Many of the servers have been with Massimo for years. So if you are having trouble deciding, they are ready to help. But you are never rushed through your dinner here. Everything is well paced and beautifully presented.
I recently visited Ristorante Massimo for April 2013 Portsmouth Restaurant Week. The special fixed price menu offered many tempting items, but I settled on the Torta di Verdure followed by Capesante con Risotto – porcini crusted day boat scallops over a locally grown king trumpet and blue oyster mushroom risotto; finished with a saffron lemon emulsion. To round out the evening, I had Torta alla Cioccolata – Valrhona chocolate mousse tart served with amoretto flavored raspberries and toasted salted walnuts.
For a limited time, Massimo’s will be having Bistro Night each Thursday evening featuring a menu of three tantalizing courses for $29.95 per person. Each dish is created with fresh seasonal foods. Don’t miss out on this opportunity as I’m sure it will be gone in a few months, chased off by the visitors from far and wide who hear about Ristorante Massimo from critics and locals alike.
Ristorante Massimo is located at 59 Penhallow Street, Portsmouth, NH. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made through the internet or by calling 603-436-4000. The Inn is located just a 15 minute walk from this little bit of Italian dining heaven.