Colossal Cafe's new owner isn't messing with a good thing

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Liz Potasek
Elizabeth Tinucci, the new chef and part owner of the Colossal Cafe, says fear not, the pot pies are still coming back in September.
​The pancakes aren't going anywhere, and the rest of the menu is safe, too, says Elizabeth Tinucci, the Colossal Cafe's new chef and co-owner. Tinucci, 24, and her dad, who is also an owner of Tinucci's, bought the cafe from former chef-owner Bess Giannakakis earlier this summer.

And after two weeks of training with Giannakakis, Tinucci opened the popular cafe alone on August 4. "It was a really intense two weeks," Tinucci says. Tinucci's two-week cram session included a crash course in yeast-based pancakes and the rest of the cafe's recipes, meeting all the regular customers, getting to know the new staff, learning about the restaurants basic operations, and, of course, getting filmed for Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Colossalguy.jpg
Liz Potasek
The spiky-blond one left his mark over the front door of the Colossal Cafe during a visit in May.
​Guy Fieri stopped by the Colossal Cafe during a trip to Minneapolis in May to tape a segment with Giannakakis, and when his producers learned that the cafe with a cult-like following was changing ownership, they sent another crew out to tape Giannakakis training Tinucci. The air date for the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives episode featuring the Colossal Cafe is yet to be determined, Tinucci says. But she expects to get notice about two weeks before the show runs and will make an announcement on the Colossal Cafe's Facebook page.

While getting filmed for a television series is totally new to Tinucci, working in the restaurant business isn't. She grew up helping out in her father's restaurant, and although she dabbled in a non-industry career after college, it wasn't long before she quit her job and enrolled in culinary school. "People always say you get this business in your blood," she says.

Before running the Colossal Cafe, Tinucci worked in a variety of positions at Broder's Pasta Bar--most recently as sous chef on the pasta bar's patio. Even with a solid background in the restaurant business, taking over the Colossal Cafe is a challenge. "It's a whole different beast when it's something people know and love," Tinucci says. "Bess worked really hard for five years to make it what it is."

And, at least for now, Tinucci isn't going to shake things up. She's only made one tiny tweak to the menu: taking lunch sandwiches off the menu on Sundays, so she can focus on the brunch crowd. But other than that, everything remains the same. Her biggest challenge is learning the intricacies of the yeast-based flapper batter. "It changes every minute," she says, and the batter grows out of the bowl if kept unchecked.

The weekly specials, like last weekend's cardamom French toast with grilled peaches and mascarpone, provide Tinucci an opportunity to put her own spin on the menu on a regular basis.

Tinucci is toying with the idea of a grand opening party in September, but right now she's just relishing her new adventure. "Every day, at the end of the day, I can't believe I'm so fortunate and so lucky to do this," Tinucci says.



Location Info

Colossal Cafe

1839 E. 42nd St., Minneapolis, MN

Category: Restaurant

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