335 University Ave. E.
When I first heard that Buon Giorno was relocating to a suburb from its eons-long location on the northern edge of downtown St. Paul, my blood began to boil: What, the city isn't good enough for you? But now I've learned the details, and I'm overjoyed about the new Buon Giorno Italia complex, just off the intersection of I-35E and Highway 13. One small step for Lilydale, one giant step for Italian-food-and-wine fans throughout the metro.
"People are like, 'Oh, you're leaving the city,' but it's not like that," says Marc Mackondy, Buon Giorno's general manager and the grandson of the deli's founders. We don't own the building [downtown], and we don't have anywhere near the room to do what we want." Such as opening a temperature-controlled, 600-bottle wine shop with Tuscan furnishings and a fireplace, which looks to be one of the top Italian wine shops in the nation; a wine bar with some 250 to 300 bottles on the list; and a 65-seat, full-service restaurant called I Nonni. Not to mention an expanded deli and grocery shop.
Mackondy says the new restaurant will be modeled on Lupa, the marvelous casual Italian restaurant in New York. The chef is from Rome, prices will be pegged on the lower side of fancy (from $9 for pastas, and from $15 for entrées). "You won't see any $17 risottos here, but you will see real carbonara, braised oxtails, lots of veal, lots of lamb, tons of seafood," Mackondy offers.
The wine list promises to be breathtaking. Mackondy, who has long been in charge of Buon Giorno's wine and who does a lot of private-cellar development for Italian wine collectors, says the family has basically been stockpiling wine for the restaurant for 25 years, and very seriously for the last two and a half, ever since they knew something like this was in the works. Expect to see some 40 Barolos from 1997 (the much-ballyhooed “vintage of the century”) slowly make their way through, along with 20-year-old Brunellos. And cheap and friendly little-knowns, too, like seafood-friendly Sicilian whites. “The wine pricing is going to be pretty cool, like Auriga’s, where you can get a great bottle and feel like you’re getting a bargain, too,” promises Mackondy.
Look for this bounty to open in August. I can’t wait. If you can’t wait either, stop by Buon Giorno sometime this month for the Italian wine sale, featuring 20 percent off much of the stock.
When the new space opens, the old location will remain open for lunch only, from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., serving forth those marvelous sandwiches, along with pastas. There will be no groceries, no deli counter, no wine—but there will be tables and chairs, which means that St. Paul effectively gains two—two!—Italian restaurants. Note to Minneapolis: You’re being taken to school.
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