New caboose business features simple Italian fare
By Tara Nelson
Blaine’s historic red caboose is back in business with new owners and a new menu.
Angelica Purvis, of Blaine, opened Portofino restaurant last month, moving from one food lover’s venture to another.
Her mother, Joyce Guimond, of Blaine, was the former co-owner of the Great Northern Cafe, which sold espresso, light snacks and gourmet Mexican popsicles.
Purvis said she wanted to take on where her mother’s business left off, but focusing more on Italian sandwiches and hand-crafted gelato from Mario’s Gelati in Vancouver, B.C.
The energetic young entrepreneur said she stumbled across Mario’s drive-through gelato business while visiting Vancouver with her mother last year and she “fell in love with it.” Now she drives to Canada every other week to fill her car with 32 five-liter steel tubs in flavors ranging from hazelnut-dark chocolate and spumoni to white chocolate-raspberry and lemon.
“I actually opened the place based on my love of gelato,” she said. “I told my husband we have to at least try and it will either bomb or people will love it.”
Purvis is a native of Portsmouth, N.H. where she owned a salon and spa for several years.
She moved to Blaine six months ago with her husband, after five years as a traveling manager with Trader Joe’s specialty grocery stores.
“That’s where I got my love of good food,” she said. “That and my Italian heritage.”
Portofino’s menu is simple and focuses on quality ingredients rather than an expansive list of items.
Panini sandwiches, for example, are available in only four varieties including the Capri (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar) and the Venetian (goat cheese or provolone, red onion, arugala, and roasted red peppers) and are served on Ciabatta bread from Avenue Bread Bakery in Bellingham ($6.25).
And Purvis’ pesto potato salad is made on-site with basil grown on the back porch.
“I’ve always thought it’s best to do a few things very well and realize you can’t please everyone,” she said. “If people are craving a good panini or gelato, they’ll know where to go.”
Portofino is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located at 795 Peace Portal Way and can be reached by calling 332-1900.