If you had asked me 17 years ago what Bellevue restaurants would still be in business, I would have included Porta Via for its friendly owners and meticulously made food.
Don't call them "just sandwiches" -- the layers were crafted from ingredients obviously carefully selected for pairing, calibrated for flavor profile, and hand-chopped for proper distribution. Olives were minced, sun-dried tomatoes cut into slivers, basil was cut julienne.
Porta Via has been revived by Mehrdad Alviri, brother-in-law of founder Stefano Hugh, and moved to White Bridge Road. The finishes have been upgraded to granite, there's table service, and critically, wine.
Restaurant pizza is usually a disappointing facsimile of the homemade kind, which in a savvy household is made with homemade dough, homemade sauce and individually prepared ingredients scattered reasonably generously over the pizza. That's how we try to do it at home, and also what I found in Porta Via's pizza. Basil, roast peppers, transparently thin salami and a sprinkling of spicy red pepper flakes for the Diavolo.
Porta Via's pizza is the first in Nashville to be VPN, certified Neapolitan, featuring tomatoes grown in the region near Mt. Vesuvius, fresh mozzarella and hand-pressed dough made without mechanical means plus baking in a special wood-fired oven of volcanic rock.
At $12 for a 12-inch pizza, it's, you know, not going to break the bank. The sandwiches are a decided bargain at $5.50 (for the meatball) to $7 (for some panini), made with the same care and attention to detail.
The dish that tugs most strongly at my curiousity, now that the pizza itch is scratched, is the charcoal steak grilled in the Neapolitan-approved pizza oven. That will require a return trip, which is one I'll gladly make.