What started as a winter skiing trip in Northern Italy turned into a full-blown culinary obsession for restauranteur Michał Długiewicz. The sheer range of pasta styles and the simple, sublime flavors of Northern Italian cuisine inspired him and his partners to open Tapasta in their home city, Poznań.
However, it has not come without challenges. Significant differences in the two nations’ palates forced Michał and his skilled team to adjust slightly. But now Tapasta is one of the city’s most innovative Italian eateries.
Homemade pasta is their specialty and instead of being a base, or a lackluster carrier of sauce, the pasta here is the focal point of the dishes. I sat down with Długiewicz to talk about Tapasta and try some of his recommendations.
“I honestly don’t like pasta anymore,” Michał quipped with a grin when I asked what he thinks Tapasta does particularly well. “When you’re around pasta all day, it’s sometimes the last thing you want to eat,” he said. We laughed as he skimmed the menu.
Nevertheless, he pointed to the black tagliatelle with seafood and white wine. “What makes the pasta black?” I asked. “Squid ink,” he replied. I was intrigued and a little skeptical. I wondered what it would taste like. He said he would bring some of his other favorites as well.
Tapasta is a portmanteau of tapas and pasta. “Originally, the idea was to bring two of Europe’s great cuisines here,” Michał explained. During the long drive home from a ski trip in Italy, the name emerged during a brainstorming session between partners — and they went with it. At first, the restaurant served tapas but soon scrapped the idea.
The tiny dishes didn’t go over well with Polish consumers. Few wanted to shell out the money for a few olives, or slices of ham, regardless of how authentic, or high-quality the ingredients were. Polish people and Posnanians especially are still largely self-sufficient when it comes to food.
When people do decide to go out, they want substantial portions, and filling meals, according to Michał. Besides, the competition between restaurants is fierce here. Unlike other major Polish cities, Poznań does not benefit from the same tourist traffic. Both a blessing and a curse, the lack of this “guaranteed base” forces many chefs and restauranteurs to innovate and constantly develop strategies to stand out.
Fickle consumer habits are something Tapasta has had to adjust to. “In Italy,” Michał said, “pasta is served with a bit of sauce. If we tried that here in Poland, people would think we’re cheating them.” So while the preparation and cooking methods are authentic, Tapasta’s chefs tweak the presentation to suit local tastes. Sauces here are a bit creamier than they would be in Italy and there’s more of it.
Black Tagliatelle With Seafood and White Wine
Squid ink imported from Italy gives this pasta its characteristically dark color. Once I accidentally bought while squid from a fish market unaware that they were fully intact and brimming with ink. I found out later when I got them home and started to cut into one and had fishy squid ink all over myself and my kitchen counters. When Michał said squid ink dyes the pasta, I had flashbacks to this kitchen disaster. However, the taste of the black pasta was mild and delicate. The silky black pasta contrasted with the bright red sauce in the dish.
As with the sauce, Tapasta does not skimp on seafood. the dish had lots of shrimp, calamari, and mussels. However, the real star of the dish was the pasta. Freshly-made pasta is worlds away from dried in both flavor and texture. These dark noodles were perfectly al dente and elastic.
The sauce, Michał explained, is a mix of fish broth pureed with a little bit of tomato paste garlic and white wine. Light and fresh, the subtle sauce has hints of shrimp. Not overly fishy, the sauce accentuates the taste of the seafood.
Three Cheese Ravioli with Egg Yolk and Fresh Sage
Next came the three cheese ravioli with a raw egg yolk and fresh sage. Three ravioli came arranged on the plate each a little envelope for a runny, deep yellow yolk. It must be a delicate job to get a ravioli around an egg without it breaking. I would break it for sure.
A very short cooking time — about a minute — cooks the thin pasta but leaves the yolk raw and warm. When I cut into one, the ravioli skin was surprisingly absorbent, soaking up the yolk. Gorgonzola, ricotta, and parmesan lent a salty pungency to the egg. Again, the centerpiece of the dish was the delectable pasta itself, everything else was secondary.
Tagliatelle with Truffle Cream, White asparagus, and Parmesan
Finally, the third pasta dish arrived. Flecks of truffles suspended in the creamy white sauce lent a distinctive earthiness. Cut spears of white asparagus were interspersed with the tagliatelle noodles. The sweet white asparagus gave the creamy pasta a crisp texture.
White asparagus is on the tail end of its season in Europe. Buttery and sweet, the white variety is much milder than green asparagus. Lack of sunlight in the growing method robs the young shoots of vital chlorophyll. In the dish, the creaminess of the sauce and the sweetness of the asparagus contrasted with the pungent parmesan and fragrant truffles. Like the other two dishes, the care involved in creating the dishes were evident in the final product.
Meringue Cream Cake with Berries
Just when I thought we were done, Micha brought out a massive slice of meringue cream cake. Not too sweet, the delectable cake came topped with whipped cream and fresh berries. I had a bitter espresso and the two paired perfectly. Meringue is a notoriously finicky product to make consistently and all Tapasta chefs have to learn how to turn out a consistently puffy, but not rock-hard meringue every day.
After filling up on pasta and cake, I was stuffed. Tapasta really takes the process and ingredients seriously and continues to serve authentic Italian dishes to the city of Poznań. My personal favorite was by far was the black pasta with seafood. Subtle and refined, I thought the noodles and sauce were perfectly balanced and intensely flavorful. Authentic and atypical ingredients also played a role in my choice. Tapasta is definitely worth a trip.
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