Martina – Background
What’s the story on Martina? Well, to start, it’s one of the most popular restaurants in the Twin Cities.
It first first opened in 2017 by Daniel del Prado. At the time, del Prado had been running the kitchens at Bar La Grassa and Burch Restaurant and decided to branch out on his own.
It’s not exactly a spoiler to say that Martina was a massive success, and the rest is history. Del Prado has since opened up four more restaurants across the Twin Cities – Colita, Rosalia, Cafe Ceres, and San Jusan – all to rave reviews – and Mpls St. Paul Magazine claims he’s single-handedly transforming the Twin Cities food scene.
After we were one of the first to review Rosalia, we noticed something disturbing. We were all over Daniel del Prado’s new spots, but we’d never actually been to Martina, the original restaurant that started it all.
Realizing we were totally slacking as Twin Cities food bloggers, we went ahead and made Friday-night reservations to this Twin Cities legend.
- Martina – Background
- Martina – Our Visit
- Entrees – Pasta at Martina?
- Conclusion – Martina deserves the praise
Martina – Our Visit
We arrived at our reservation to a conversation that went like this.
- DTC: “We’re here for our 7:00 reservation.”
- Hostess: “Okay great, there’s just a 45 minute wait right now.”
- DTC: “Oh sorry haha, we said 7:00 reservation.”
- Hostess: “Yes. It’s a 45 minute wait.”
We spent the next 45 minutes wondering what Martina considers a reservation. As our bellies rumbled and we debated aborting the mission entirely, we decided to stick it through in the name of food blogging. We couldn’t let you down!
(To be fair, the state had recently changed COVID restrictions, so it’s possible the restaurant got caught in the adjustment.)
The Vibe & Atmosphere
Martina is located in the heart of Minneapolis’s Linden Hills neighborhood. It’s attached to the same building that houses del Prado’s new Rosalia and across the street from neighborhood staples like Sebastian Joe’s (some of the best ice cream in the Minneapolis) and Lake Harriet (one of the best beaches in Minneapolis).
The vibe inside is surprisingly rustic. Maybe it was just the constant buzz around the spot, but for some reason we’d always imagined Martina as fancy upscale.
In reality, the space is rustic and approachable. Distressed wood covers the ceilings and tops the tables, although the clean walls and ambient lighting hints at a blend of sophistication.
Confession – we drank a bit too much the night before, so the idea of something alcoholic wasn’t revving our gears.
That said, ordered a water or soda at Martina just didn’t feel appropriate, so we steered into a part of the menu we normally ignore completely – zero proof cocktails.
Martina has a whole handful of them, and we found ourselves seduced by the “Tropical” (that’s passionfruit, mango, lime, and carbonated water) and “Lemongrass” (ginger, galangal, lemon, and carbonated water).
To be honest, both were so incredible we immediately began wondering why we don’t order virgin cocktails everywhere.
After seeing another table order this, the look of Martina’s bread drew us in.
We’re talking thick cuts of bread, toasted to a charred perfection over the restaurants open flame grill.
But the best part was that home made butter. It’s whipped to a soft, spreadable creaminess that’s just heaven on a crust.
Spicy Tuna Tiradito
Wow. As a sashimi sushi addict, this one was a dream come true.
It’s like Martina took traditional tuna sashimi and turned it on its head, thanks to a smokey, spicy marinade that transforms something familiar into delicious, uncharted territory. Loved it.
Knowing Daniel del Prado’s Argentinian heritage, not to mention his informal involvement in Boludo – one of the Twin Cities’ best empanada spots – we had high hopes for this appetizer.
And it absolutely did not disappoint.
It came out piping hot with strings upon strings of ooey-gooey melted cheese. Martina fills these with a mix of gorgonzola cheese and creamed leeks, another unfamiliar yet delicious spin, and the chimichurri-like dipping suace just brought everything to a whole new level.
Entrees – Pasta at Martina?
Again, I was surprised to see the menu’s focus on pasta, but then I remembered this is a guy who spent years running Bar La Grassa’s kitchen. Say no more!
Cavatelli (Spicy Sauage, Kale, Cream)
Wow, this was the surprise pasta of the night.
Put simply, I’d never experienced a pasta quite like this. Buried underneath that mountain of shredded cheese sat a surprise layer of sauce that almost seemed… curry-like?
It was like someone took a traditional Italian pasta, infused it with with a surprisingly spicy latin kick, and then sent it off to blow people’s minds.
I absolutely loved this dish, and it single-handedly cemented Martina as a pasta heavy-weight in the Twin Cities food scene for me.
Rigatoni (Roast Mushrooms, Procini Butter, Parsley)
Any time you can mix mushrooms into a pasta, you’ve got me. And Martina does this one right; the Rigatoni is rich and buttery in all the right ways. I literally found a pool of butter at the bottom of this dish, and while that might sound like turnoff, I wasn’t even mad. Somehow it just fit.
If it’s possible for a rich, buttery dish to display elegance, Martina’s Rigatoni somehow pulls it off.
Conclusion – Martina deserves the praise
Yeah, we can see why Daniel del Prado is taking the Twin Cities food scene by storm.
Based on this meal alone, we’ve now added the rest of Martina’s sister restaurants to our “must eat” list.
Everything on our visit was perfection. (Well, aside from that little snafu that had us seated nearly an hour late for a reservation. But thankfully, Martina’s next-level food came to the rescue.)
Every single bite, from the cold tuna to the hot empanadas, blew us away.
Oh, and BRB – we gotta go update our best Italian food in Minneapolis article to include Martina’s incredible pastas!
What’s the service like?
It’s full wait-service, with knowledgeable staff that seems to be on top of it.
Do you need a reservation to visit Martina?
They do allow walk-ins, but considering we had a 45 minute wait for reservation, we’d highly recommend tapering your expectations.
Average Plate Cost
$15-20 appetizers, $20-30 entrees.
Dedicated lot as well as street parking
As of this writing, Martina is open for dinner seven days a week, starting at 5 PM. You can find their most updated hours here.
4312 Upton Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410