Porto’s Opening Menu Offers a Fresh Take on Mediterranean Fare

Jody Adams and Jon Sanchez use New England's bounty in creative ways with the flavors of Spain, Italy, Northern Africa, and beyond.

Jody Adams and chef Jon Sanchez of Porto

Jody Adams and chef Jon Sanchez of Porto. / Photos by Ken Rivard

Chef Jody Adams has long been one of Boston’s top authorities on the fresh flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. For the duration of her 20-plus year career at the late Rialto, Trade, and Saloniki, her menus eschew butter for fruity olive oils, and prominently use bright herbs, citrus, and high-quality proteins to simple perfection.

But for her second venture with Trade partners Eric Papachristos (also her partner at Saloniki) and Sean Griffing, the team built a temple to such cooking. Porto, named for the shared Italian and Portuguese word for “port,” opens Monday, July 11.

“It’s a continuation of the focus at Trade, that was at Rialto. This is just all the pieces,” Adams says.

When the Trade team began talking about a follow-up, it also became a sort of impetus for Adams to step away from Rialto, the Charles Hotel restaurant she opened in 1994.

“I’m playing a different kind of role [now], where my expectations for myself, and world’s expectations, [are] not that I’m in the kitchen around the clock,” she says. “I can focus on the food and the things that interest me in the restaurant and the community.”

Chef de cuisine Jon Sanchez is overseeing Porto’s menu. Though he hails from landlocked Missouri, he’s cooked on Nantucket and was opening chef de cuisine at Study and Ames Street Deli. He loves working with Atlantic seafood.

“Right now, we’re getting this amazing, gigantic Massachusetts striped bass,” he says. “We’re putting forward sexy fish, shellfish, and whatnot, with local ingredients and the clean flavor profiles of the Mediterranean.”

On the opening menu (see below), local scup is sliced raw and plated with charred leek and piripiri spices, a Northern African influence on Porto’s conceit.

Porto’s Opening Dinner and Dessert Menu

“We’re not just doing French, Spanish, Italian, and Greek. We’re not forgetting about the other side of the Mediterranean,” Sanchez says.

There will be oysters along with the raw plates, but don’t expect to try everything on one grand plateau. Sanchez is excited to showcase the variety of ways to prepare les fruits de mer with a 10-item, wooden seafood board. Think: pickled mussels, beet-cured sea trout, spicy clam salad, and other oft-changing specials.

The menu is rounded out with a few salads (fenugreek and grape-cured sea trout with charred lettuce and trout roe), medium-sized plates (squid ink bucatini with pickled peppers, clams in wine with guanciale and fenugreek), and larger entrees (Atlantic mackerel with green tomato agrodolce).

Rae Murphy, also an alum of Ames Street Deli as well as Bronwyn, Tatte Bakery, and Clear Flour and Hi-Rise bread companies, created the house kalamata olive fougasse and fig levain, as well as the desserts.

“We want to present a lot of the flavors people are looking for at a Mediterranean place, but we’re reinventing them,” she says.

That means things like a buttery, laminated dough with pistachios, orange blossom, and honey, instead of the traditional flaky baklava (Adams insisted the menu reads “not baklava”). It comes with a shot of Mount Olympus tea milkshake.

Dinner starts this week, and lunch and brunch will follow in due time. Sanchez says to expect even more no-holds-barred spins on Mediterranean flavors during Saturday and Sunday brunch, with things like Murphy’s brioche sticky bun, duck confit decadently swirled into the folds, drizzled with citrusy, duck fat icing and a topped with a dollop of mascarpone ice cream.

Eater Boston toured the airy former leasing office that is now home to Porto, and the “oasis” of an outdoor bar, lounge, and dining area. Coupled with Porto’s energetic bar program, the independent restaurant landscape in Back Bay is about to get ever more exciting.

Porto, 780 Boylston St. (enter on Ring Road), Boston, Facebook.