Food in Madrid is definitely doing great things, provided you do the leg work. Given the foodie running around MuchBites has been engaging in over the last few weeks, one thing is coming up consistently at the top of the Food in Madrid list. This fact is that the Italians are living up to their fame. The truth that Italian food is amazing remains truth. It is true that many immediately think of pizza and pasta at hearing ”Italian food.” Although these constitute the nation’s cuisine, so much more also goes on. The “so much more going on” can be hard to understand outside of Italy. However, in Madrid, we have a great story to tell about how to do Italian food the way the Italians intended.
This is the story of Pasta Mito and it goes a long way in giving one and all the correct perception of this giant of European cuisine. One can say this is a fresh injection on the food in Madrid scene. Over a hearty Italian meal, one of the partners kindly gave MuchBites some insight into the beginnings and future of this Italian restaurant. The first time MuchBites went to Pasta Mito, it had been to try pizza but that was not possible. Instead, we had a fine meal as described here. Could this have been a one of? Could Pasta Mito really serve consistently delicious Italian food? As things would have it, yes they could.
Pasta Mito is a restaurant come shop run by Jon and Ilenia. Found smack bang in the middle of a rather unassuming local market – Mercado de Chamartin, it is foodie heaven for food lovers across the board. Coincidence embodies the birth of this place. At Pasta Mito, one is made to feel right at home, with excellent customer service. All the elements here come into play and the diner feels safe in the knowledge that his food in Madrid experience has received a major boost.
To begin our second Pasta Mito experience, Jon had Giovanni, the new chef at Pasta Mito, whip up a pizza. Giovanni made a fresh dough pizza with mozzarella and tomato, then topped it with freshly made pesto and anchovies. This certainly satisfied the mishap that had occurred during pizza week. As it was working hours, we washed the pizza down with some Bolle Stille water from Lurisia. It is not common for one to get excited over water, but this water, sourced from Mount Pigna in Italy, was proof of the great lengths Jon and Ilenia had gone to, to bring the best to their restaurant.
As we munched on the pizza, Jon explained the birth of this restaurant. Jon is originally from the Basque Country and a gastro enthusiast. He studied Business Administration and after studying, he found himself a comfortable job working for Santander Bank in the Canary Islands. As usual, life happened and he found himself in Madrid.
Wanting to follow his dreams, he waved goodbye to Santander and became the proud new owner of a Spanish Bar nestled within Mercado de Charmatin. At this bar, Jon sold the usual breakfast and lunch. After the lunchtime rush, Jon’s working day would also end. It was not long before Jon realised that there was no future in what he was offering. He had big dreams of doing something different. But, as is the case with many dream-chasers, the “something” remained elusive to him.
Whilst in the process of figuring out the “something”, a certain Ilenia had moved to Madrid from Sardinia, Italy. Her hopes were to find a shop to sell her signature products – Tiramisu and Gelato. For some reason, she found herself in Mercado de Chamartin.
As she went round the market, she stumbled upon Jon in his then Spanish Bar and she posed the question, “I am looking for a shop to sell Tiramisu and Gelato in this market. Do you know of any one available?” Jon’s answer was a frank “I do not know, but you can use mine.” From then on, the two decided to enter into a partnership. Long story short, Pasta Mito was the ensuing genius child of the two.
At some point in the life of Pasta Mito, a talented Executive Chef who happened to be Jon’s good friend got in on the party. Word on the street has it that at some point in a not too distant past, he was seen on Top Chef. It was great to hear about his contributions to the genius of Pasta Mito. Borja namely designs the restaurants offering and helps in creating new dishes, among many other things. As he is also from the gastro-famed Basque country, he has played a great part in marrying successful elements of Basque cuisine with Italian cuisine – of which fact, what we ate testified to.
In true Italian fashion and before continuing with the interview, Jon presented us the traditional Italian antipasti with a selection of cured meats, cheeses and focaccia. The highlights from the antipasti were the mortadella with truffle oil, the 24 month old parmesan and the homemade focaccia. As we slowly ate our way through this gourmet selection, the restaurant got increasingly busy. It was amazing to see the 3-man show in progress. Jon would seat the customers down and take their orders. Ilenia would prepare the drinks and parts from the antipasti menu and Giovanni cooked the lunchtime orders that were coming in thick and fast.
As the restaurant found itself unusually busy for a Tuesday, Jon offered us the next item on our menu to keep our bellies and taste buds occupied: creamy and soft burrata served with sweet and fragrant datterini tomatoes. The burrata was very fresh. As it so happened to be, it had just been delivered two hours prior to our arrival. The tomatoes too, were noteworthy. They were packed with flavour and perfectly complemented the cheese so that neither was overpowering. The olive of drizzle and fresh basil completed the whole lot.
As things settled down and the happy diners ate away blissfully, Jon continued the story. Jon and Ilenia had clear in their minds that Pasta Mito was going to be different. The differences would be, one, there were not many Italian restaurants going (good ones that is) and two, theirs was going to focus on high quality products, carefully chosen and sourced. As the restaurant is inside the market, one great benefit was the possibility of buying directly from within the market.
Since Mercado de Chamartin offers good quality produce, this would definitely be a huge plus in terms of excellent, fresh food. This location advantage in one they use to the fullest. Pasta wise, Jon and Ilenia went on a hunt for Italy’s best pasta to meet their needs. As the kitchen would be small, making fresh pasta daily would be a challenge. So the two embarked on a pasta tasting mission that actually left Jon somehow fed up of pasta and with a newly found affinity to fish. But the result was a supplier of fresh pasta from Milan. Therefore, once a week, Pasta Mito receives fresh pasta from Milan – gnocchi, tagliatelle, spaghetti, tortellini, etc.
Up to now, we had eaten some exquisite food. It was no longer necessary to prove that Pasta Mito was indeed a great restaurant. As food lovers, especially of Italian food, the slogan at Pasta Mito, “passione Italiana” had certainly been well transmitted. But in case some doubts still lingered on, Jon served us selections of their fresh pasta from Milan. On our menu was ravioli with goats cheese and figs and tagliatelle with a gorgonzola sauce.
In a few words, fresh pasta from Milan is the future. Giovanni certainly knows how to leave your pasta al dente, giving it that “just perfect bite.” In addition to this, the accompanying sauces demonstrated that yes, one can make pasta at home, but without a killer sauce to go with it, you might as well not try.
In this great a dining experience, it was evident that Jon and Ilenia had managed to bring perfect harmony to the small space they had. They had carefully converted the old Spanish Bar into a tiny, but fully functional kitchen in plain view of the public, a deli-style area offering cured meats and cheeses and then a store section with the likes of olive oil, pastas and other Italian food favourites.
The issue of sitting area had been resolved by renting the fruit stall opposite the restaurant and converting it. As this would not be sufficient sitting, they had an attic/loft built above the shop area to store foldable chairs and tables. These are brought down and opened as needed during the lunch and dinner periods when the market is closed and the restaurant is at its busiest.
To finish off our soon to be repeated experience, Ilenia wowed us with her desserts. The tiramisu was rich and creamy with ample coffee. This was topped with a dusting of rich cocoa powder. We also had some cannoli with ricotta cheese. The cheese was sufficiently sweet and the pastry, crunchy and crumbly.
After all is said and done, the future of Pasta Mito is indeed bright. The owners plan to expand their business at some point during the coming year. Their plans might well include moving to a bigger restaurant on the mean streets of Madrid. But until these things happen, do be sure to pop in to Pasta Mito for a meal you will not forget soon.
Pasta Mito serves a menu del dia Monday to Friday between 1.30pm and 3.30pm. This is priced at 12.50 and includes a drink and dessert. After 3.30pm, you must order from the menu. The menu is divided into antipasti, pasta dishes, meat dishes and desserts. They are open from Monday to Saturday. If you want to go for dinner post 8pm, you must reserve a table. Once reserved, they will stay with you until you are well and truly fed.