The delicious is in the details at Marisqueira bistro
Diners accustomed to the level of care they receive at Mallorca in the South Side will be equally pleased with Marisqueira Mediterranean Bistro, which opened July 26 in Aspinwall.
Owned by Claudio Pereira, whose father, Antonio, owns Mallorca, and partner Francisco Buxareo, the establishment is a cozy jade-and-black facade on Commercial Avenue.
Diners feel instantly important as they are ushered into the warm paprika-and-gold dining room, bathed in low golden light. Fresh coral tulips are perched at each awaiting table and servers sashay past with woven baskets of fresh, crusted bread for each table.
Hosts and servers are dressed in classic black and white, with some wearing bow ties.
"Everybody seems to love it. Some customers come back three to four nights a week," Buxareo says.
Part of the charm is an extensive list of specials, offering patrons chances to try many different kinds of fish and traditional Portuguese fare. The specials that run each night include five appetizers, six fresh fish entrees and six Portuguese dishes. Dishes featuring goat and suckling pig have been especially popular. Friend and fellow restaurateur Toni Pais of Cafe Zinho in Shadyside approved of both on a recent trip.
The most striking features of the restaurant are certainly the details. There are the impeccably dressed servers who answer questions about any dish and recommend wine pairings. They also scoop entrees from serving pots directly onto your plate. Even the bathrooms have expensive sinks where water travels, moat-like, around a solid cube to swirl down the drain.
An intimate setting of soft arches and wall recesses keeps everything from being too stuffy, though.
The menu is quite extensive, listing 57 items, ranging from appetizers and salads to meat and "do mar" (from the sea) entrees. The additional specials and desserts only add to the options.
Executive chef Jose Velasco works with Pereira and Buxareo to ensure diners are given the authentic Portuguese experience. Portuguese olive oil is secured during monthly trips to New York City, where the owners also take in the ambiance in the city's Portuguese restaurants.
With so many authentic offerings to choose from, we selected the stuffed artichokes ($11.95) and Lulas Salteadas, or sauteed calamari ($10.95), for our appetizers.
The four artichokes, stuffed full with crab, sat in a pretty yellow sauce. They were both flavorful and filling. My husband, who never eats artichokes, even declared them delicious.
The delicate circlets of sauteed calamari swam in a rustic broth of tomato, cilantro and garlic. The fragrant aroma piqued interest at the table beside us.
For entrees, we chose both land and sea -- my husband picked the goat, Portuguese-style ($25.95) and I chose the recommended Arroz de Marisco ($26.95), a variety of seafood and rice.
The goat came chopped in chunks, still on the bone in a rich stew of seasoned potatoes and mushrooms. Rice and peas were served on the side as a base. The meat was sharp, yet delicate, in a similar vein as venison, its juices forming rich, brown rivulets of gravy.
My seafood dish, brimming with shrimp, chopped lobster and mussels and clams still in the shell in a bouillabaisse tomato sauce. It, too, was served with rice and peas. For a moment, I felt summer ocean breezes and warm sun on my face, as the seafood was impossibly fresh and juicy.
Portions were large enough to have food to take home, and though we were stuffed, we couldn't pass up the mango sorbet ($7), served whimsically frozen in the mango rind itself. It was the perfect tart ending to a lovingly prepared dinner.Additional Information:
Cuisine: Mediterranean with a Portuguese slant
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon-9 p.m. Sundays
Entree price range: $12.95-$30.95
Notes: Major credit cards accepted. Extensive wine list. Dinner specials. Available for private parties.
Address: 226 Commercial Ave., Aspinwall
Details: 412-696-1130 or www.marisqueirabistro.com