Does Frascati Come In Kegs?

In La Grolla, St. Paul gets a long overdue crowd-pleaser

The wine list too is a crowd-pleaser, though not a connoisseur-pleaser. While it's both woefully overpriced and rather unadventurous, it does indeed offer something familiar and something good in every single category, and, if you are acting as host at the table, it's really just T-ball to find something your guests will recognize and like. Personally, I prefer wine lists on the Solera model (everything unusual and unknown, everything wonderful, prices rock-bottom), or in the style of Chiang Mai Thai (critical darlings, artisanal rarities, prices rock-bottom). But if you've got a clientele that doesn't know too much about wine, a list like this is good enough, and, in its way, gracious.

It's odd for me to consider how much I liked La Grolla when on the whole and in each of its parts it is so much more of a crowd-pleaser than a critic-pleaser. But I assure you, for me to like a restaurant so much in spite of gnocchi that drive conversation inevitably toward the future of biodegradable adhesives, they must be doing something right.

They are. They're serving the one thing that straight A's in cooking school never can--the je ne sais quoi, the ambience, the feel, the verve of a real restaurant--and that, I think, is exactly what St. Paul needs if it's ever going to have a real restaurant scene. To have that, people have to feel relaxed and excited about going out, which, I am sad to report, a lot of people don't.

People-pleaser: Shari and Jon Emerson enjoy La Grolla's accessible upscale Italian dishes
Trish Lease
People-pleaser: Shari and Jon Emerson enjoy La Grolla's accessible upscale Italian dishes

Some of you might know that I talk a little bit about restaurants on the radio once a week, on KS95 on Thursday mornings, and as part of this I have gotten baskets of e-mails from people asking for restaurant recommendations, and the thing that has shocked me the most about these is the anxiety with which so many people regard fancy restaurants. They don't want to be frowned on for dressing wrong, they don't want to feel embarrassed about their inability to pronounce words in foreign languages, they don't want to be scared and intimidated.

At first, my reaction to this flood of anxiety was bafflement. First of all, there is no restaurant in Minnesota, not one, not a single one, anyhow, anywho, or anywhere, with a jacket-required policy. In fact, and sadly, there are only a very, very few restaurants where you might not be comfortable wearing the clothes you wore to paint the garage.

But over time, I have concluded that the facts about the restaurants around here are not always the issue. Sometimes the feelings about the restaurants are more important, and in this case, I think St. Paul needs about a dozen fun, nice, je ne sais quoi restaurants before it will ever have a real restaurant scene. I mean, eating out isn't supposed to be some pious experience where one goes and worships at the altar of correct cooking--and this I say as someone who is just crazy nuts for correct cooking. It's supposed to be fun, comfortable, cheery, hearty, and likable--just as it is here.

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