Top 10 Italian restaurants in the Twin Cities
School's in session, the sun is setting earlier in the evening, and there's a distinct chill in the early morning air. There's no denying it--autumn is upon us. Gone are the days when all you feel like eating are crisp salads and cups of frozen yogurt. Whether you're looking to fuel up for fall sporting events, or just to pack on a little insulation for the frigid days to come, nothing beats an Italian restaurant when it comes time to carb up. Here are ten of our local favorites.
1. Bar La Grassa
No matter how hip and bespectacled the faces are in Bar La Grassa's always-busy waiting area, the cuisine that this nationally recognized restaurant serves up is centered on something that's been a favorite of carb lovers for centuries: pasta. Whether he's working with dried or fresh, executive chef (and James Beard award-winner) Isaac Becker has an incredible knack for knowing just what to do with noodles of every shape. Large, hollow tubes of paccheri are the perfect match for shreds of tender and fragrant saffron milk-braised chicken, semi-circles of agnolotti make an ideal home for earthy mushrooms and Taleggio cheese, and wide ribbons of pappardelle are the obvious choice to stand up to the slow-cooked intensity of veal ragu. It's not just the pasta that's noteworthy. In addition to nicely crusted, fall-off-the-bone, St. Louis-style ribs, the elegant simplicity of the soft scrambled eggs and lobster bruschetta is an experience every Twin Cities resident should have at least once.
800 N. Washington Ave, Minneapolis; 612.333.3837
2. Broder's Pasta Bar
If you want to eat an affordable plate of pasta, you have dozens of options around the area. If you want to eat a craftily concocted, beautifully presented, top-quality, affordable plate of pasta, your best bet is heading out to Broders' Pasta Bar and sampling the ever-changing variety of egg pasta dishes (from noodles prepared fresh daily) or imported semolina-based artisan pasta dishes. While the menu presents a seasonally aware, rotating extravaganza of Italian food, some evergreens call out to regular Broders' diners. The kicky, outrageously fresh-tasting penne alla puttanesca, for example, and the reliably bright and vivid linguine con pesto Genovese are guaranteed to keep pasta lovers streaming out of Broders' overstuffed parking lot and through the front doors. They don't take reservations, so wear your patient pants, knowing the wait will be worth it when you twirl that first bite of housemade pasta around your fork.
5000 Penn Ave S., Minneapolis; 612.925.9202
3. I Nonni
The veal shank osso bucco at I Nonni is the sort of dish that lingers in your memory...the tenderness of the braised meat, the rich, buttery marrow you scooped from the bone with a tiny spoon. I Nonni also offers fresh seafood; homemade gnocchi with tomato, basil, and ricotta; Brussels sprouts with crisp bits of pancetta; and paper-thin beef carpaccio piled with sharp arugula, shaved Parmesan, olive oil, and served with a whole lemon to squeeze on top. It's cuisine inspired by the Italian grandparents, or i nonni, of the owners, the Marchionda family, who founded the beloved Buon Giorno Italian Market and sourced more than 400 small-production, regional Italian wines to pair. The authentic meals are served in a dining room that's decidedly modern: glowingly lit, with vaulted ceilings, and windows looking into those of the neighboring McMansions.
981 Sibley Memorial Hwy, Lilydale; 651.905.1081