Porta in Montclair is more than pizza

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Porta restaurant in Montclair New Jersey
Porta restaurant in Montclair New Jersey

Reading their menu is the first temptation. When you think of pizza, you think of either red or white, but at Porta’s in Montclair you can have pizza named “Lars and the Real Girl,” “Rita & Mack,” “The Lost Daughter,” or “Love & Mercy,” all as unique as their names. Culinary Director Fredrica del Valle said “Lars and the Real Girl” was named after the lifelike doll “Bianca” in the movie. “Bianca” means white in Italian; “Lars and the Real Girl” is a white pizza with three cheese toppings.

Porta Montclair was opened in February 2022, becoming the third location, following Asbury Park and Jersey City. Their name was taken from an old Italian proverb, and they strive to carry on the tradition of creating family by sharing food at a table.

Fredrica del Valle went to a pizza-making school in Italy to master the art of making authentic Neapolitan pizza. Neapolitan pizza goes back 500 years and is the world’s oldest form of pizza. It is baked at 800 degrees in special ovens with imported flour and San Marzano tomatoes from Italy. Porta also makes their own mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, which del Valle was taught by a cheese maker in Italy. Their dough is homemade with lower gluten and yeast content, making it a lighter dough.

Del Valle loved to cook as a child. She grew up reading her mom’s copies of Gourmet and would help with dinner parties at a young age. She still loves to entertain and invites family over for traditional classic meals. Her secret to a good meal is to start with a good protein and build sides from there.

Having been with the restaurant group for 23 years, she began her career as a junior graphic designer and first created the brand for the Asbury Park location. She now serves as Culinary Director and is responsible for overseeing the kitchens.

Her first kitchen stint at Porta was working at the pizza station. Del Valle said her favorite part of the job was seeing people huddled around the ovens anticipating the meal and then feeding them, creating a sense of family at the restaurant. She also said working as part of the kitchen team allowed her to meet “passionate people with a lot of heart.”

Many of Porta’s employees are members of the LGBTQ community and Porta Montclair is a supporter of Montclair Pride. In 2023, they sponsored a fundraiser for OUT Montclair and hosted this year’s official Pride Dance Party in June. The restaurant frequently hosts a “Saturslay” evening drag show and drag brunch at their Jersey City location.

The Montclair restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, with lunch on Fridays and brunch on the weekends. Besides pizza, they have an extensive brunch, dinner, lunch, and late-night menu. Try the lemon ricotta pancakes for brunch or the hot chocolate budino for dessert, a chocoholic’s delight.

Dinner entrees include roasted octopus, eggplant parmigiana, and Bell & Evans chicken cutlets. Accompany it with Three Trees salad, a combo of radicchio, arugula, and Belgian endives topped with prosciutto, almonds, and pears.

Fredrica del Valle making a pizza
Fredrica del Valle went to a pizza-making school in Italy to master the art of making authentic Neapolitan pizza.

Del Valle said the homemade meatballs are a customer favorite, with pecorino romano cheese and their famous San Marzano tomatoes. They source from local farms and have seasonal items on the menu, such as ricotta-stuffed acorn squash in the fall and a kale salad with watermelon and radishes. Each chef has their own specialty pasta dish.

They also have a full bar and specialty cocktails such as the Sage Margarita and Smoked Pear Smash to enjoy at happy hour or with dinner.

Porta has a holiday tradition at all their locations, “Pizza & Porta Tree,” which has become a highly anticipated customer favorite. You can buy your Christmas tree there along with two pizzas and wine or beer for a special price.

Pizza hot out of the oven at Porta in Montclair
Pizza hot out of the oven at Porta in Montclair

The Porta restaurants are expanding their present locations. The Asbury Park venue is building an event space next door to its current restaurant. Montclair will be adding an outdoor mezzanine deck in the spring of 2024 with future plans for an event space in the basement.

Check out their entertainment calendar and online gift shop. Who wouldn’t like a gift card, or a Porta Pup Sweatshirt for your dog?

Porta has taken dining to new heights and is ever-evolving with their creative team.

pizzaporta.com/montclair

Cora Berke
I am a volunteer for New Hope Celebrates in New Hope, PA. and former Board member of FACT Bucks County. I write for Out in Jersey Magazine and the Bucks County Herald. I love travelling, knitting, reading and taking care of my cat Gemma.