Chef Daniel del Prado has a place of his own.
Today, the former Burch Steak chef de cuisine will open the doors to Martina -- his hotly anticipated Argentinian seafood restaurant -- bringing wood-fired flavors, hand-pulled pastas, and South American twists on classic cocktails to the former Upton 43 space in Linden Hills.
We had a chance to pop in earlier this week. Here’s what you should know before you go.
5. The space is a little less Scandinavian chill, a little more Argentinian chill.
Del Prado’s baby has a hi-lo thing going on, and the surrounds are a bit warmer than Upton 43’s Scandi-chic vibe. The black leather barstools clustered around the stunning marble bar are cracked and peeling; plant life lines the walls. A few cocktails come served in clay jars -- and they’ll rest on coasters hand-stitched by bar program director Marco Zappia’s mom. (Yes, it’s the cutest.)
4. About those cocktails: They’re cheap.
The whole menu, in fact, is approachable and affordable -- elegant as it is, Martina is a neighborhood restaurant. No drink tops ten bucks; appetizers and small plates fall, for the most part, in the $7 to $15 range. A gorgeous grilled octopus with bone marrow? $19. Butter poached salmon with burrata and burnt squash? The same. We’re not sure how del Prado’s doing it.
3. That wood fire is putting in work.
You will marvel, munching on charred cucumber, at the intricate and earthy flavors these flames have imparted to such a humble vegetable. You will say, “Oh my god,” out loud, tasting what the fire has done to the aforementioned octopus. You will consider moving in to Martina and refusing to leave all winter long.
In addition to the Argentinian, Italian influences abound -- a nod to the heritage of del Prado’s mother -- and noodle dishes are beautifully realized with the help of pasta wizard Joe Rolle. A satiating spaghetti with ½ lobster (again, only $19 -- are you serious?) and a transcendent squid ink pappardelle dressed with seafood bolognese are both well worth ordering. And if you don’t decide to go for those on your first visit, that’s okay, because...
1. These dishes are sticking around.
Del Prado tells us he plans to keep it consistent for a while rather than switching things up seasonally, giving you plenty of time to eat your way through the extensive menu.
Martina is open Sunday through Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m., and 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday.
4312 Upton Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612-922-9913