Bringing It Down to the Earth

Our Rating: SOOOOO Good
Address: 103 Congress St. Portsmouth, NH 03801
Dinner Hours: 7 nights a week starting at 5:00, Lunch: Monday – Friday 12:00 – 2:00 Brunch: Sunday 10:00 to 2:00
Contact: 603-430-7766 pesceblue.com

photo by Jack Bingam courtesy Pesce Blue

Review via Maureen Whitehouse

Serendipity brought us to this yummy eatery in the heart of downtown Portsmouth, which I later found out is featured as a dining experience not to miss while visiting Portsmouth in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die.

I’d hoped to find a Soul-Full dining experience that my almost-vegetarian (fish eating) dinner partners could relish as well one I could feel amazingly good to present to our readers as a sustainable, conscious eating choice. Viola! – Pesce Blue. I found this restaurant to be enchanting. The atmosphere is upscale all-embracing – quite comfortable to sophisticates as well as the tank top/sandal wearing crowd. The wait staff is delightfully attentive and knowledgeable about each dish’s preparation and ingredients, and the owner, Cliff T. Arrand, appears to be easily accessible as he warmly and actively engages in lively dialog with clientele.

The only thing that could possibly have made this dining experience better for me is if I’d opened my eyes after my first sip of organic Pinot Noir, and found myself magically transported to a small coastal town in Italy. Other than that, this is as close to my most favorite Italian dining experiences (and I’ve had many) that I could imagine reveling in while on US soil. This is a high-end Italian eatery—no heavy sauces, just light, obviously inspired and deliciously composed dishes. As a mostly vegan eater (I eat cheese every once in a great while), I found plenty on this menu to delight me, although most of it was in the form of very fulfilling appetizers, sides, salads and pastas. While my dining companions and I munched on hand-rolled and home baked herb breadsticks, focaccia and chipata I found it was terrifically difficult to choose between the Roasted Stuffed Baby Artichokes – filled with goat cheese, lemon and herbs, and dressed with an olive vinaigrette, the Local Roasted Tomato and Basil Salad with reduced balsamic vinegar and Mint and Pine Nut Stuffed Gnocchi. They found the Pesca (Fish) Selections, such as the Risotto al Pescatore (seafood risotto) and Griglia Mista (Assortment of grilled fish) to be equally enticing.

Photo by Jack Bingham courtsey Pesce Blue

A good portion of the Pesce Blue menu changes daily, depending on what foods are in season and can be found locally from New Hampshire farms as well as what’s the local catch—I was told that the only fish on the menu that was not caught in local waters the evening I dined there was the tuna. Which, as many of you know, is best to avoid anyway (for more info, see the “fish to avoid” column of the Fish List found on pg.162 of Soul-Full Eating) because tuna is unsustainably over-fished worldwide, and also due to the fact that as a larger fish, it contains the highest levels of ocean contamination, including inordinate
amounts of toxic chemicals such as PCBs and mercury.

One of my most ardent suggestions is that you begin your dining experience at Pesce Blue with the “Street Food,” dreamily reminiscent of the signature foods you can buy from vendors on the streets of Italy, such as Aroncini—wild mushroom risotto balls filled with goat cheese (yes,I splurged here and allowed myself this non-vegan delight!),Croquette—truffled potato rolled and breaded with lemon aioli, and Mozarella in Carozza—bread dough with fresh mozzarella served with warm marinara. It’s rustically luscious. And the deserts… nothing short of edible works of art – they’re “to live for!”

Photos by Jack Bingam courtesy Pesce Blue.

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