Morning Wood: Porta Dining Commons to open in Northeast Residential Area

The dining common and fine-dining eatery will open in Fall 2019

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Morning Wood: Porta Dining Commons to open in Northeast Residential Area

(Sauerkraut Burger/Daily Collegian)

(Sauerkraut Burger/Daily Collegian)

(Sauerkraut Burger/Daily Collegian)

(Sauerkraut Burger/Daily Collegian)

By Bert Tucci, Trying to Stay Open

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The Massachusetts Morning Wood has learned exclusive details about UMass Dining’s ambitious plans for a yet-to-be-revealed dining hall, which will be placed in Northeast Residential Area.

The new Porta Dining Commons, already under construction as a replacement for the adjacent Worcester Commons, will be run as a public-private partnership with Porta’s Amherst restaurant according to sources familiar with the matter. While the dining common will operate as a part of UMass Dining, it will be managed by current Porta staff. Consisting of a collegiate dining hall as well as a sit-down establishment, to be called UMass Fine Dining by Porta, the combined dining facility will support a capacity of nearly 500 customers.

When asked for comment, UMass Dining confirmed the existence of the new Porta Commons, of which details were intended to stay under wraps until its grand opening next semester.

“Combining the lovable ambiance and charm of the Porta restaurant franchise with our award-winning dining program is a win-win for students and the University alike,” dining services chairman Ken Toong said. “From the unique logo flair to the colorfully-painted slogans on the exterior, the UMass Porta Commons will inject a beautiful staple of Downtown Amherst into our campus. I couldn’t be prouder to share this achievement with the wonderful management staff at Porta.”

“When UMass Dining reached out to us earlier this year about a possible partnership, we were beyond thrilled,” Porta restaurant owner Rich Abraham said. “And when we realized that we both held the same ownership philosophies, that sealed the deal.”

Abraham continued, saying the dining common will likely adopt the Amherst restaurant’s controversial practice of “paying its employees from time to time, sometimes taking their tips,” adding that “thankfully UMass was on-board with that policy from day one.”

Reaction among students on campus was largely positive following the announcement.

“Porta is my favorite restaurant in Amherst,” junior capitalism major Sheila Jacobson said. “I can’t wait for their ‘Blarney in September’ launch event. My friends and I have already RSVP’d.”

On social media, Porta has already begun sharing promotional details about the new dining commons with students.

“Leave your wallet and ID at home on opening night, get free drinks ON US. Underage students WELCOMED,” said one Instagram post, which had received over 6,000 likes. A flier about the same promotion on the official UMass Dining Instagram page was on the cusp of receiving 30 likes.

One member of the community apparently not in support of UMass Dining’s plan was Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy. When questioned while waiting in line for pizza at Berkshire Dining Commons, he declined to comment about plans for the new dining commons. However, when taking off his jacket while sitting down to eat, he was observed wearing a “Save Bertucci’s” t-shirt.

Moments after taking a few bites of poor-quality Berk pizza, Subbaswamy was reported to be on the verge of tears, according to those familiar with the Chancellor’s eating habits.

Some have criticized the University’s decision to affiliate itself with a restaurant which, according to a recently filed lawsuit, committed trademark infringement by mimicking the name and style of the identically-named Porta restaurant chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. However, all indications suggest that UMass isn’t concerned.

“I mean, we’ve been cheating our way to the top,” a University spokesperson said, referencing the surreptitious methods behind the University’s continued number-one dining ranking, “so why stop now?”

Reflecting UMass Dining’s commitment to enhancing the campus fabric in ways beyond just food, the Porta Commons building will also contain “community enrichment spaces” such as a miniature jungle gym, liquor store and petting zoo.

“I’ve always been envious of the party atmosphere in Southwest, and I’m sure the new Porta Liquors will change the vibe of Northeast for the better,” freshman rave-management major Grace Topper said. “I’m just glad they’re going to be accepting Dining Dollars and YCMP, cause I’m sure not going to be using my swipes at Blue Wall anymore.”

As a result of the Porta Commons’ lavish hours of 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. on weekends, Franklin Dining Commons will be closed indefinitely. Toong said, “although Frank has already been closed for the past week, and I doubt you even noticed.”

At press time, in an attempt to get ahead of any potential litigation, the University announced that it had purchased the original Porta restaurants in Philadelphia, Jersey City and Asbury Park, which will together become the Porta Sub-campuses of the University of Massachusetts at Mount Ida.

Bert Tucci spends his days in the middle room of the old Worcester, and won’t vacate his outlet-accessible table until 20 minutes after closing time when the dining hall workers actually close the dish return. You can reach him by tripping over his laptop power cable.