IF YOU are looking for a traditional family restaurant, then Casa Nostra in Portimão is certainly the place to visit. Head chef, Marcelino, started working in restaurants at the age of 18, gaining the majority of his culinary experience during the 20 years he spent working in famous hotels in Switzerland, before moving back to the Algarve.
He decided to set up the Regional Restaurant that, after a lot of hard work and endeavour, became increasingly popular among residents and holidaymakers alike. Marcelino’s wife and two daughters, Phillipa and Cristina, worked together to help establish the restaurant’s reputation, bringing a unique family touch to the business.
In addition to providing good service, working in the restaurant has obviously had a great impact on the careers of Marcelino’s daughters. Cristina is now a well-known lawyer in Lagos, but describes how her enthusiasm for the restaurant “runs in her blood” as she and her sister spent such a large part of their lives there. “The restaurant has enabled me to listen and understand people’s problems, as well as helping my command of English considerably”, and believes that the restaurant was responsible for her coming to a turning point in her career …. While serving an English couple one night, she got into conversation and mentioned her desire to become a lawyer, provoking the man to respond that, “many have the knowledge, but few have the burning desire”. It was these words that inspired her to achieve her ambition to enter the world of law.
Marcelino’s other daughter, Phillipa, now works with children in Lisbon. She believes that, because she used to babysit in the restaurant, it may have had a subtle bearing on her career choice.
The family ran the Regional Restaurant for 20 years, but, when the lease expired, Marcelino decided to go into semi-retirement. Unhappy with his decision, his daughter Cristina used her powers of persuasion to convince her father to return to the restaurant business with her help. She ‘coerced’ her husband, Antonio, who works as a surgeon, to invest in a property, becoming the third partner. They eventually found the perfect place in the borough of Portimão, in 2004, and a year later Casa Nostra was open to the public. Located in Praia da Rocha, Casa Nostra is situated just past the Modelo shopping complex, after the nightclub Exotica and before the water fountain.
The family vibe that made the Regional Restaurant so successful is still present at the new venue. With the mix of decorative antiques in the restaurant and photographs hanging on the wall, the restaurant has a comfortable and relaxed ambience, “the Casa Nostra (our house) effect”. The restaurant offers comfortable seating outside on the spacious terrace as well as inside.
Marcelino personally visits the fish market every day to purchase fresh fish, which will be used by the chef to tempt the most discerning client. There is also a superb range of freshly prepared dishes of the day, which are outstanding value at just 4.50 euros.
Casa Nostra also serves a fine selection of authentic Italian pizzas and Portuguese favourites to suit any palate. Most of the vegetables, tomatoes and figs are grown from the bountiful family gardens. When it comes to the dessert menu, it is better to forget about your waistline and just enjoy those homemade treats.
With great food, great people and above all else, a heart-warming welcome, Casa Nostra is well worth a visit by anyone looking for a restaurant to enjoy freshly cooked traditional food.
• Call Casa Nostra on 282 418 083. The restaurant is closed on Sundays.