For mid-size cities such as Pittsburgh, there are some cuisines that are just too exotic to support a restaurant. Until last summer, such was the case of Portuguese cuisine in Pittsburgh. However, with the opening of Marisqueria Mediterranean Bistro, the Iberian Peninsula’s other half (there are a decent number of Spanish restaurants in Pittsburgh), Portuguese cuisine was finally represented. As I will be traveling there in little more than a month, I was anxious to try Portuguese food since I had never eaten it before.
Marisqueria is owned by Claudio Pereira and his partner Francisco Buxareo. (Pereira’s father owns Mallorca, an iconic Spanish restaurant on the city’s South Side.) Not until the restaurant was featured as one of Pittsburgh’s daily groupon deals did I become acquainted with it. It’s located in Aspinwall, a borough on the Allegheny River. While it’s only about a 20 minute drive from downtown, it’s not an area we frequent which is why the restaurant went unnoticed on my radar for about six months.
The restaurant, while not overly large, was ample spaced. The walls were painted paprika and gold and bathed in a subdued light, a welcome respite from the overly hot temperatures outside. I had called to make a reservation the day before and upon stepping inside and giving my name, we were immediately led to our table by Francisco himself. My only critique of the restaurant was that our table had no lighting save for a very dim candle; it made reading the menu almost impossible without squinting and me being unable to distinguish between the pineapple and cheese on my cheese plate. While I do fine in more dimly lit restaurants, this was too dim for even my tastes. It was most unfortunate since our table seemed to be the only one in the dark.
Immediately upon being seated our water glasses were filled and rolls and butter placed on the table. Francisco himself then rattled off the day’s specials, entirely too many to remember save for a few, unique sounding standouts. The menu is in Portuguese and English and is quite extensive. There are twelve appetizers (fresh Iberian octopus broiled with Portuguese blue cheese, Portuguese cod fish cakes) in addition to two soups and four salad selections (I missed out on the salada de palmitos, hearts of palm salad) which I was most disappointed about.
We each ordered a glass of their red wine sangria which was terrific. Although as the ice melted it definitely diminished the strongness of the drink, it was still a great selection for a hot summer night.
To start I went with the prato de queijos com fruta (Portuguese and Spanish cheese with fresh fruit) for $14.95. This was more than enough for two people to share but as D had his heart set on the gazpacho, I didn’t want to insist he share mine. I didn’t ask what types of cheeses they were, preferring to simply taste and try them all. There was one that was so gooey it required a utensil; this was not a favorite. The cheese board came with grapes and pineapple chunks.
D ordered the soup special which was gazapacho. I’m not a fan of cold soups although I did try a spoonful and it definitely had a nice kick to it but not overly so. It featured a variety of beans and vegetables.
Entree include an extensive selection of meats, poultry, and fish dishes. I opted for the frango a piri piri which is chicken in a piri-piri sauce for $15.95. Piri-piri is a hot and fragrant sauce found in both Portuguese and African cooking (in Portugal’s former colonies such as Angola and Mozambique). The sauce was hot but not too much so that my weak stomach couldn’t handle it. It came with rice and sauteed vegetables.
D went with the bife a portuguesa, pan-seared New York strip steak served with ham, a fried egg, and fresh-cut round fried potatoes for $22.95. I didn’t sample any of his but he cleaned his plate and seemed to like everything including the fried egg which he was the least bit apprehensive about.
For dessert we decided to split the Portuguese tiramesu. I didn’t get a chance to ask what made it Portuguese in comparison with the traditional Italian version. To me, the liquor commonly found in tiramesu didn’t seem as strong or perhaps wasn’t used at all. Or maybe, it featured porto (port) instead.
It was a terrific meal at Marisqueria and a great way to get us excited about the culinary delights that await us when we visit Portugal later this summer. We’ll be back for sure and I hope you’ll try it out too if you haven’t done so already.
Marisqueria Meditarranean Bistro
225 Commercial Avenue