After graduating top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America in 1981 , Portale became the chef at Gotham Bar and Grill in 1985 and took it to new heights with his beautiful plating and insistence on high quality ingredients.
Portale's first sous-chef at Gotham was Tom Valenti, while other notable chefs who have worked at Gotham include Bill Telepan, Wylie Dufresne, Tom Colicchio and Christopher Lee. The current chef de cuisine is Jason Hall.
In October 2008, Portale opened Gotham Steak at the Fountainebleau Miami in Miami, Florida and has since stated in relation to the opening and the current economy that, "You don’t want to open a molecular cuisine place now, but I would open a steakhouse again in another city, even in this climate".
Portale is the author of three cookbooks in collaboration with others and alone: Gotham Bar and Grill Cookbook (1997), and Twelve Seasons Cookbook : A Month-by-Month Guide to the Best There is to Eat (2000) and Simple Pleasures : Home Cooking from the Gotham Bar and Grill's Acclaimed Chef (2004).
He has also made television appearances, most notably as a guest judge on the episode of Top Chef originally broadcast on June 27, 2007 and as a featured chef with Julia Child in her PBS series “Cooking with Master Chefs” on December 16, 1995.