First look: Andiamo Italian Ristorante in Eagan
Owner and General Manager Ramon Ruiz is testing the adage "third time's a charm" with his new Eagan eatery, Andiamo. After two other Italian restaurants have tried and failed in the same location, the odds would seem to be stacked against this most recent tenant in the corner space of this rather nondescript strip mall.
We stopped by for lunch this week to see if the food is good enough to give Andiamo a fighting chance.
There was a rather light crowd of only five or six tables for lunch Wednesday when we stopped by, mostly groups of two. The restaurant is laid out so that, were it full, it would feel quite crowded. Tables are placed a little tighter than a couple looking for a romantic, private dinner might appreciate.
The decor doesn't fit the stereotype of an Italian restaurant, personified by Buca di Beppo, for which Mr. Ruiz formerly worked as executive chef. There are no checkered tablecloths or any pictures of men who resemble video game plumbers. It's not memorably decorated, but it is clean, comfortable, and pleasant.
The menu is large enough, featuring most of the standards of Italian fare: pastas, pizzas, Caprese salad, chicken parmigiana, etc. There are panini, which are unexpectedly served with French fries.
The wine list is not huge, with 20 offerings. But it does feature a nice variety, though three different Californian chardonnays may not necessarily be the wisest use of rack space.
Some of the more interesting offerings include a parmesan gelato appetizer and a pizza topped with prosciutto, pear, gorgonzola, walnuts, and raspberry honey.
The Hot Dish sampled that pizza along with the house chicken entree, Chicken Andiamo.
Pizza: It's a shame this location doesn't have a wood-fire pizza oven because this combination of toppings is phenomenal and could only be improved by that slight char picked up from an open flame. Thin strips of prosciutto are layered on the crust, then topped with slices of fresh pear, gorgonzola cheese crumbles, and chopped walnuts. Chopped prosciutto is sprinkled on the very top to crisp in the oven and take on a bacon-like texture. The finishing touch is a drizzle of raspberry-infused honey. It's essentially a salad with a pizza crust in lieu of greens--in fact, some greens spread on top after the oven but before the honey could enhance the dish even further.
In this picture, this dish has no capers at all.
Chicken Andiamo: This is definitely not a dish for the caper-averse. The plate came with somewhere between 20 and 40 little caper buds mounded on the two chicken breasts smothered with prosciutto and artichoke hearts. The dish was solid but not particularly impressive. The outer edges of the chicken breasts were on the dry side, and the lemon butter sauce was unremarkable. The entree was served with a side of roasted vegetables, though mashed potatoes could be substituted, leaving no doubt that this Italian restaurant is in the Midwest.
So, what's our verdict? Will Andiamo succeed where others have failed?
While there seems to be little about Andiamo to make it a destination for the downtown/Uptown crowd, it's an acceptable option for locals looking for Italian nearby. The pizzas are good, but not good enough to drive past Punch or Black Sheep to get to. There's really no dish on the menu that would justify a 30-minute drive, and there doesn't seem to be room in the collective conciousness of metro diners for much beyond Buca, Broders, and Olive Garden.
It's ultimately a question of whether or not Eagan residents will patronize an Italian restaurant in their neck of the woods, and, unfortunately, history doesn't bear that out.
ANDIAMO ITALIAN RISTORANTE 1629 Lena Ct, Eagan 651.289.2000; website
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