During his first visit to Hungary, Nicola Portinari did not seem to be enthusiastic about the Hungarian gastronomy or seemed like he has left behind his fame in Italy in order to open a new restaurant in Hungary. However, the situation has changed significantly by now – the Italian master chef has become the co-owner of the Hungarian Pasztell restaurant.
Nicola Portinari first came to Hungary in 2016, when the gastro magazine Dining Guide invited him – along with several world-famous international chefs – to decide the annual ranking of Hungarian restaurants.
Four years ago, the first-class Italian chef owned the two Michelin-starred La Peca restaurant near Verona which started as a family business and received its first Michelin star in 1992, when Nicola was only 28 years old.
At the time, Portinari was so unsatisfied with Hungarian food that there was no chance that the Hungarian gastronomy would manage to please him. Nonetheless, he returned to Hungary several times as an independent tester, until 2018, when his collaboration with Tama restaurant was announced.
The two-year contract eventually meant much more. Tama closed for a while and created a new profile – they hired a new chef, János Erdei, and not only did they renew the menu, but they practically opened a new restaurant, whose owner has become Portinari and the famous Hungarian catering master, Attila Hegyi. The location is the same – less than 100 metres away from the quarter of the most popular restaurants in Budapest.
Thanks to the renovation, guests can enjoy a new interior design which is dominated by a neat style and special montages on the wall, made by Géza Ipacs designer. The restaurant got a new name as well: PASZTELL (instead of the former Tama), in which the Italian word ‘pasta’ is hidden.
As Portinari reported to Hungarian news portal Index, he would like to remain the co-owner of Pasztell and support the operation as a consultant but not as a chef. He would like to realise this with continuous improvements.
At the debut dinner, both Hungarian and Italian gastronomy appeared on the menu. The seafood pasta was similar to Carbonara – at least externally – thanks to a unique shell truffle sauce.
The menu can be divided into two categories: ’Let’s go to the sea’ based on Portinari’s ideas, while its opposition, a combination of Hungarian traditions and today’s fine dining trends, can also be tasted. According to international master chefs, a restaurant should focus on its own country’s flavours without mixing it with international piquancies.
As far as Hungarian gastronomy is concerned, the unconventional “beef stew” was among the most memorable dishes, which is included in quotes on the menu, as it contains one piece of medium-sized prime rib, potatoes in the shape of strings, and paprika puree. However, we must mention the great celery cream soup as well, thanks to its amazing ’flavour combo’. Additionally, the Italian-Hungarian fusion fish soup should be tasted as well, representing those creative ideas that differentiate Pasztell from its competitors.