Review: Locanda Marino
Upscale Italian has the location and the prices, but you could do better for your money around these parts
Posted: February 6, 2013
The spacious rooms manage to feel intimate, but it's hard to justify spending so much here.
Prague has a lot of Italian restaurants, and quite a few very good ones. At any great establishment, it's more easily justifiable to fork out more money for commensurate quality and a truly memorable experience; there are quite a few such places in Prague, some of which also happen to be Italian. So it's difficult not to have a reaction bordering on indignant to dine at Locanda Marino, a big, brassy pizzeria and trattoria whose jaw-droppingly high prices reflect little but the assumption that because of its location, people will happily hand over the same amount as one would expect to pay at some of the city's best restaurants when nowhere near the same standard is on the menu here.
Granted, Locanda's menu is extensive, and I only sampled a percentage of its vast offerings. I didn't try the 550 Kč Irish Angus steak with a 120 Kč side dish, or the 650 Kč linguine with lobster. But when the bill for two people for a shared starter, a pizza and a veal cutlet comes to 1,500 Kč, it's hard not to think of all the places that money would have been better spent. A few blocks away, for example, the immaculate La Truffe, decadence in food form wrapped in truffles and dipped in cream, is within the same price range. And for top-notch pizza, Pizza Nuova is in the same part of town, and Pepe Nero isn't far.
That's not to say dining at Locanda Marino wasn't pleasant at times. The staff were friendly and efficient, and the interior is quite charming, with vaulted arched ceilings, tastefully checked tablecloths and comfortable cream-colored banquettes. But, then again, there's a branch of the Pizza Coloseum chain right next door, which is comfortable enough. And cover charges just always feel cheeky.
Overall, the food was decent, with the exception of a scallops starter that I had to very ladylikely spit out into my cloth napkin and then hide under the table. Described on the menu as "Gratinated St. Jacob's mussels with basil pesto," four or them arrived in scallop shells, coated in a heavy, grainy breadcrumb mix that that had drained the delicate meat of both moisture and flavor; one scallop was hard and chewy. There were also two random fishy-tasting shrimp hanging around on the plate. This dish was 390 Kč, putting the value of that one discarded scallop at roughly 100 Kč.
Ovocný trh 6, Prague 1-Old Town
Tel. 224 242 507
Open daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m.
Baked eggplant with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and Parmesan 210 Kč
Gratinated scallops with basil pesto 390 Kč
Paccheri pasta with Italian sausage and broccoli 260 Kč
Risotto with mixed seafood 300 Kč
Veal cutlet 320 Kč
Baked potato wedges 90 Kč
Pizza Bufalina 250 Kč
0.75 L Piemonte white wine 490 Kč
Cover charge 25 Kč
Another starter, baked eggplant, was very good, to the point where I could have welcomingly eaten a full-size entree portion and not become tired of the tender, meaty eggplant, baked to softness, and the gooey, warm mix of tomatoes, mozzarella and Parmesan sprinked with basil. It left a rich bit of sauce on the plate that was satisfying to mop up, although the white bread was forgettable.
The pizza was hard to fault, and, unlike the rest of the menu, was reasonably priced for Neopolitan-style pies in the city center, at least for the Bufalina, which came with buffala mozzerella. The thick, chewy crust, dusted over with flour and char marks, stood high around the edges, reining in the milky cheese and balanced, sweet tomato sauce, albeit with a tad too much oil.
The veal cutlet entree suffered from a claustrophobic sauce. The waitress had given the option for either mushroom sauce; garlic and lemon; or tomato, olive and caper, and the latter proved too pungent - and in essence tasted like a jarred pasta sauce - for the bright young meat below it. A side of potato wedges (a bit misleadingly described on the menu as baked potatoes with rosemary) was pub-standard.
A seafood risotto was well-executed, with a heartening wine-infused tomato sauce and plump, al dente grains of Carnaroli rice. There was a generous amount of critters in it, too: mussels, shrimp, calamari, squid and clams. The pasta sampled, however, paccheri with Italian sausage and broccoli, was just all right; for the price, there could have been more pieces of sausage and broccoli among the buttery sauce and folded noodles.
Locanda Marino does have a certain nice atmosphere, and there certainly is an insatiable appetite among both locals and visitors for Italian cuisine. But, after a few disappointments with the food and at prices this high - two visits with wine totaled about 3,500 Kč - there's little reason to recommend it over the myriad options for top-notch dining in Old Town.
Fiona Gaze can be reached at