Located in Linden Hills in the old Upton 43 space—which got stripped of its sterile Scandinavian decor for a more inviting dining room modeled after traditional estancias, or Argentinian ranches—Martina may be new, but its seafood-centric menu has earned its place among the city’s great restaurants. It’s the first solo endeavor of chef Daniel del Prado, who has been the protege and right hand man of chef Isaac Becker for years, helping to open Bar La Grassa in 2009 and who last served as executive chef at Burch Steak and Pizza Bar. Martina celebrates the chef’s heritage—he was born in Argentina to parents of Spanish and southern Italian descent—and the mix of cuisines works beautifully on the menu.
It’s no surprise that the pasta dishes are spot on. He transforms bolognese sauce, swapping pork for a blend of squid, octopus and shrimp served on housemade squid ink pappardelle. Soft, pillowy gnocchi are bathed in a carrot-infused rustic filleto sauce. I order mussels every chance I get, not only because they’re one of my favorite foods, but I can also judge the quality of a restaurant by how they prepare them. I’ll have to say, Martina’s version lives up to the test.
From the open wood-fire fueled kitchen comes entrees like giant prawns with chimichurri, grilled swordfish resting in a pool of puttanesca and octopus with buttery bone marrow and tomato jam. If it’s a splurge occasion, consider the ultimate surf and turf, a 100-day aged ribeye served with lobster tail. Don’t skip the sides either, such as the charred cucumber with a salty kiss from feta and colatura, Italian fish sauce made from anchovies. For dessert, order the decadent chocolate cake or the crepe-like panqueque with dulce de leche and bananas.
4312 South Upton Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55410
Photographs by Eliesa Johnson.