Bethel’s Portofino reopens a year after devastating flood damage
BETHEL — Through patience and perseverance, Louie and Rocco Selmanti have finally reopened Portofino Restaurant & Wine Bar in the Dolan Plaza Shopping Center.
When a sprinkler system malfunction flooded the establishment in January 2016, the owners figured they would be closed for about two weeks. That stretched into almost a year before they were able to welcome back customers.
“It was terrible, no good,” Rocco Selmanti said. “When you’re closed you feel like a sitting duck.”
Indeed, landlord Bob Gleason said many investors inquired about the location as the Selmantis were forced to shut down temporarily.
“Other people were interested, but they were adamant they wanted to reopen,” Gleason said. “It’s a story of perseverance.”
The sprinkler malfunction damaged walls and the bar area of the restaurant. The space was rebuilt to resemble its former rustic appearance with chestnut bar and beams. Portofino Restaurant & Wine Bar features a separate bar area and dining room with seating for about 120. The Selmantis originally opened it in 2011. It reopened in January following the renovation.
“We didn’t want to rush to get open,” Louie Selmanti said. “We had inquiries to take over when we were closed, but we worked hard to get it back to where it was.”
Louie and Rocco said Gleason was encouraging and helpful during the time of transition. “We wanted to be there for them and help in any way we could,” Gleason said.
Judging by the crowds that have come back since the reopening, the Bethel community missed Portofino and its northern Italian cuisine when it was closed.
“I went there last weekend and it was packed,” Gleason said. “They have a loyal following in Bethel.”
The owners have encouraged the crowds by offering specials such as Ladies Night on Thursdays, live music on Sundays and Mondays, and menu specials such as Prime Rib Night (Mondays).
“The reception has been great. We’re overjoyed that we could open again,” Louie Selmanti said. “A lot of regular customers come here. We worked long and hard to reopen.”
The headaches of the past year haven’t discouraged the Selmantis from wanting to expand their restaurant business. Portofino is the only restaurant currently in their portfolio, but their minds are open to expansion, Rocco said.
“Absolutely. We’re still young,” he said. “You have to keep rolling.”
To reach Portofino Restaurant & Wine Bar, call 203-797-8131.