The streets running off Leidseplein and Leidsestraat are always jam-packed and contain many different types of restaurant aimed both at those on a budget and people who want to spend a bit more. Porto Carrara is a small Italian restaurant located on Lange Leidsedwarsstraat if you head east away from Leidsestraat and towards Spiegelstraat, just up from the Rijksmuseum.
It is somewhere I have cycled past many times but never thought to go in – this is not a location I normally eat in, and the ‘pizzas from €5’ sign makes you wonder about quality. However a Dutch friend recommended it, and we went early on a weekday night when the restaurant was busy both with locals and tourists.
The menu is simple and available in both Dutch and English. As it says on the door, all pizza and pasta main dishes start at €5 and they offer a good selection. Starters range from onion, tomato or minestrone soup for €3.50 to prosciutto ham and melon at €7.25; main course salads come in between €4.90 and €5.50. Pasta dishes include standard Italian favourites such as meat lasagna (€5) and tortellini ai quatro formaggi (€6.50). Basic €5 pizzas include a Margherita, funghi or salami, with a seafood option at €7 and Marinara for €7.50. Desserts include tiramisu for €3.60 and various ice-creams starting from €3.25.
My co-diner recommended the calzone and we therefore went for one each. The meat version contained cheese, ham, artichokes, mushrooms and salami topped by a tomato-based minced meat sauce while the vegetarian option replaced the ham and salami with onion and green peppers and was topped off by a tasty tomato-only sauce. Both were large portions and reasonably priced at €6.50.
Beer starts from €2.50 for a Heineken, and they offer a choice of white or red wine priced at €2.25 a glass, €7.80 a half-litre or €14.60 a litre, plus Lambrusco and a choice of spirits.
Service is friendly, and Porto Carrara is the type of place where they start recognizing repeat customers. My co-diner had not visited for over a year but was still greeted as an old friend, and we received a complimentary plate of bread and garlic butter as a result. The portions were large, and the bargain pricing meant our two mains plus three glasses of wine and a cola came to just under €20. Great value for money and great food – so don’t be dissuaded by the ‘€5’ sign!