Quaint neighborhood restaurants don’t always enjoy full houses on Tuesday night.
While the Twin Cities have seen a major elevation in our food scene and attendant diner savvy, we still tend to be prudent Midwesterners. We like to dine on the weekend, we like to dine at 7 p.m., and we like to make reservations ensuring this framework.
Pulling into the parking lot of newish Italian Eatery at the the less than prime time of 6 p.m.Tuesday, we thought we were in a time warp.
Inside the airy space adjacent to a tailor's in the quiet Field Regina Northrop Neighborhood, nearly every seat was full.
The space intersects expansive, high-ceilinged urbanity with approachable farmhouse touches. Sleek lighting is counteracted by wooden tables. An open kitchen is partially obstructed by a shelf filled with tchotchkes. It’s attractive enough for an occasion, but not self-conscious enough to hamper the casual Tuesday supper.
The unimaginative name might have worked against the place during the recent tide of new Italian restaurants all over the city. Initially, we thought it smacked of bandwagon-jumping. But we needn't have worried. This is genuine, classic Italian cooking done with aplomb.
The menu is refreshingly, delightfully devoid of crudo, that of-this-moment Italian chef’s darling of raw fish. Instead, they've taken care with classic dishes that trend toward home cooking. Though they cook with such a pro hand, it almost feels wrong to paint it with that brush.
Pasta lovers, this is your nirvana: 10 fresh iterations, from simple (spaghetti and meatballs) to advanced (squid ink fettuccine) and many things in between.
The spaghetti was some of the best we’ve ever tasted, enchantingly fresh, yet substantial. Returning to dry noodles after this will never do. A modest cloak of simple pomodoro provides seasoning, but not competition. Rustic meatballs bring things back into homestyle territory.
A pot of mussels with Lemoncello butter swam in a liquor so heavenly they could bottle and sell it. Servers charmingly delivered bread supplements for soaking. They, too, are aware of its charms.
A side of Brussels sprouts were allowed to retain their buoyant green color. Enveloped in only the lightest spritz of Caesar essence, they managed to become a brilliant spring vegetable.
Gnocchi were almost austere. Just naked potato dumplings in a restrained pond of creamy butter and a few shards of good Pecorino. Ditto the Tiramisu, just a classic, lush, boozy recipe with no unnecessary flourishes. Satisfying in every way.
Wine and cocktails were served in beautiful, thin glassware. A Spicy Calabrian cocktail of tequila, pineapple, basil, honey, and Calabrian chile was at once Latin, Italian, and tropical.
The wine list is impressive and all Italian, with two dozen excellent and affordable pours by the glass. The bottle list is also broad, with almost nothing above a hundred bucks, making it easy to throw caution to the wind on a weeknight.
Service could not have been more top-notch. Empty dishes were cleared post-haste, needs and wants were anticipated, and every encounter was knowledgeable, friendly, and swift.
Establishments that have been thrumming away for years often don’t achieve this sort of stellar ease.
And even if you’re not lucky enough to live in the sleepy little residential ‘hood near 47th and Cedar, it’s worth the drive.
That Tuesday night parking lot is going to have to start accommodating big-city weekend crowds.
4724 Cedar Ave., Minneapolis