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Ever notice how Pane Vino Dolce is the only south Minneapolis neighborhood restaurant that has been able to sustain controversy for three years running? Haven't noticed? That's because you don't get mail like I get mail. Basically, the drama has something to do with the fact that the place never got around to putting a sign on the door, and that it has had a tendency to do lots of things they do in Europe, like asking if you want bottled water when maybe you're not used to that question, and guiding you toward wine that's more expensive than you bargained for, and such. (If you are reading this from space, this is not culturally normative Minnesota behavior, where packing Tuna Helper in your luggage for your stay in a Paris hotel is considered a more virtuous way to experience the City of Lights. Plus, it gives you more room to cart home souvenir sweatshirts!) Yet because the food at Pane Vino Dolce is simply good, in the most spare and sophisticated way, and because the wine is so expertly chosen, this romantically lighted little Italian place has cleaved the prosperous glen of Tudor homes, soaring oaks, and community tennis courts in which it lives into distinct camps of what I will call the European, and the Pure, who are forced to live among one another in perpetual conflict, rolling their eyes whenever their neighbor stoops to fill a leaf bag.
And now, score a decisive victory for the Europeans, because Pane Vino Dolce has won this round, and will debut a new French restaurant at the corner of 55th and Xerxes, name to be determined. Pane owners David Hahne and Carlos Macy hope to open the spot in mid-February.
I fully expect the Europeans throughout the south metro to be popping corks right into the highly polished blades of their impressive remote controlled ceiling fans once word of this new restaurant spreads. Expect country French with an emphasis on the foods of the Rhône Valley and Provence, says David Hahne, with dishes like stuffed mussels, pork rillettes served at the table in a warm crock, chèvre terrines or tarts, and the like. When I spoke to him for this item, Hahne had just gotten back from a tasting journey through France and was enraptured with French wine bars, caves à vin: "There are so many cool, darling little caves à vin with a relaxed atmosphere and people just hanging out, having fun--I don't know. I want it to be as close to what's going on in France, and no pseudo food." (Which, by the way, clinches it: Everyone in south Minneapolis feels under attack from no-brain chains; it's not just you and me.) In fact, Cave à Vin is one of the names Hahne and Macy are toying with, which will go hand-in-glove with what Hahne says will be a notably less costly, French-focused wine list. Inexpensive? Ooh, so maybe the European victory isn't so decisive? "Sometimes we think Pane might be a touch too expensive," admits Hahne, "so we're going to plan this all to be a notch or two less expensive." Other things to make the Pure happy: lots of items to share, including a table-side cheese cart, a printed wine list, and a menu organized around appetizers and salads. And a sign! Above the door, even! Watch for that sign at 5555 Xerxes Ave. S., in Minneapolis. Pane Vino Dolce is at 819 W. 50th St., Minneapolis, 612.825.3201.
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