Do not miss out on this SoPo neighborhood eatery

It was two or three years since I had been to Enio`s on Cottage St. in South Portland. The small Italian restaurant with a rustic feel offers food created with their own flair and and a relatively extensive beer and wine list. After a long week of work, a restaurant close to home sounded perfect and we made a last minute reservation.

When we arrived for dinner, the restaurant was almost empty. I assumed that meant we would be on the receiving end of really good service. We were immediately seated at a table that indicated it was reserved. We had three menus to review – food, drinks, and specials.

Without delay, my wife looked at the drink list and chose a Couillaud Sauvignon Blanc. Moments later, we ordered and I went with the Gneiss Sonnenschein which was new to me. I was excited to try the Kölsch out of Limerick, ME. We then accepted an offer of bread and were ready to choose some food

The first item my wife and I looked for was buffalo mozzarella because last time we were there we had one that was totally unforgettable. Unfortunately, the one available this time was a little different and contained items my wife didn’t eat. I wasn’t going to eat it alone, so we moved on from that thought.

We got our drinks and had a sip. Mine was particularly light and fruity – a little different than what I’ve been drinking lately, but a nice change of pace. Then we settled on starters. I ordered the Arugula Salad in a lemon vinaigrette topped with caramelized onions, pancetta, and aged pecorino toscano cheese. My wife kept it simple with a Caesar Salad – classic salad with grilled garlic croutons.

After a little enjoyment of our drinks, the greens arrived and we placed our main course orders. I went with Handmade Ricotta Gnocchi tossed with braised chicken and roasted red peppers, peas, and fontina cheese. She chose the Sauteed Maine Scallops and Shrimp tossed with handmade linguine in garlic cream sauce with sun-dried tomato puree and wilted spinach.

Our starters looked appealing and my first bite of the salad was perfect. A beautiful, fresh forkful of the lettuce and the light, slightly acidic dress were an awesome summer combination. As I worked toward the center of the plate, I got to the crispy, salty pork belly which woke up my senses and worked with the cheese to add a hearty feel to it.

As I ate my salad, eventually arriving at the sweet caramelized onions, I was thrilled. It was incredible. I wrapped up and realized I really wanted a bite or two of my wife’s Caesar. Two bites told me all I needed to know. The dressing was powerful and exactly as I had hoped. Both salads were sure winners.

A few minutes after our salads were done, our entrees made their way over. The initial smell made my mouth water. I dug in immediately and grabbed a gnocchi. The soft, cheesy pillow was awesome, but the creamy, seasoned sauce it was sitting in was sensational. A follow up bite of the braised, tender bird was pure heaven.

I couldn’t help but recognize that our meals were superb. I actually felt let down by myself when I was unable to eat the last half of mine. I did try one of my wife’s scallops before calling it quits however, and that was extraordinary too. We had the rest of our food boxed to go, looked at the dessert menu, and decided that eating more was a terrible idea.

An exceptional meal at Enio`s came to about $120 after tip. It wasn’t inexpensive, but if they’re putting out food like that, I can’t believe they aren’t packed all the time. Our meal was flawless – the food quality extremely high and the flavors among the very best in recent memory – and both our meals were even better a day later. Greater Portland, head there soon or you’re truly missing out.

Stay hungry.

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Peter Blanchette

About Peter Blanchette

Peter Peter Portland Eater grew up in Lewiston, Maine and graduated from the University of Maine in Orono with a degree in English. After college, he left the state to work in Massachusetts, but the allure of a more comfortable life in his home state brought him back after eight years. Upon his return and after meeting his now wife – Mrs. Portlandeater, he slowly integrated himself into the Portland food scene by trying as many restaurants as he could afford. That and a desire to write for others again led him to start where he reviews restaurants and blogs about whatever Portland/Maine food topics he finds interesting.