Now Open: Il Gatto


Cat's outta the bag: Parasole replaces Figlio with Il Gatto tonight! And CEO Phil Roberts is betting that you'll be so wowed by the new joint that you'll hardly remember the name of the old one. I think the shake-up was a smart move: Figlio was past its prime and underutilizing the potential of its coveted Lake/Hennepin corner spot.

The Il Gatto concept of antipasta, pizzas, seafood, and pastas seems spot-on for the times and I have confidence in its execution based on the solid talent in the kitchen. Chef Matt Kempf has worked in several great restaurants around town--the former Goodfellows, the short-lived A Rebours, the even shorter-lived Red (don't read anything into this pattern--none of these closures had anything to do with Kempf), and, more recently, the Edina Salut. Pastry chef Adrienne Odom, who rocked La Belle Vie's desserts a few years ago, is back from the NYC Aquavit: Lucky us!

More info via the Parasole press release:

Run your hands along IL GATTO's farmhouse table bar, gaze past the black steel lights suspended above it and take in the dining room - brash yet organic its blend of rustic wood, sculpted terracotta, and industry-gray leather. You'll strain to remember what used to be here.

"This place feels so right, so timeless, it's like Figlio existed somewhere else," said Parasole founder Phil Roberts. "You know what that tells me?

"IL GATTO's exactly the right restaurant to anchor Uptown for the next 25 years."

The name means "the cat," but IL GATTO's true identity comes through in its moniquer: Uptown Italian.

"IL GATTO has an Italian menu, an Uptown feel, and a character all its own," says Roberts.

Among the menu's defining features:

* A love of antipasti - and a penchant for sharing. "Right away you'll see Little Plates for the Table, divided into categories ranging from seafood to meats and vegetables," says Roberts. "But even entrees are ment to be shared." * A focus on seafood. The seafood display at the entrance sets the tone for dishes ranging from Baked Oysters Rocco to wood-grilled octopus and guitar-cut squid-ink linguini with sea urchin. Says Roberts: "Having created Oceanaire, we know the difference between fresh and really, really fresh fish and seafood. Il Gatto will do it right." * A respect for artisans - "namely, our own," says Roberts. "We make our own sausage, mozzarella, pastas and pizza dough. We bake our own breads. We create our own pastries." * An oenophilic drunkard's fondness for wine. "Order a glass, and you'll get a glass-and-a-half," explains Roberts. "Every bottle is a bargain, too. Italian dining isn't Italian without wine, and our list is both well-chosen and priced within everyone's reach." * The creativity of Executive Chef Matt Kempf. "The great thing about Matt is that he makes familiar dishes new, and he makes new dishes you want to get very, very familiar with." * The wizardry of pastry chef Adrienne Odom. "All I can say is, 'Save room for dessert.' We have a knockout dessert menu - from concept to taste to presentation." * Safe Harbors. Hate tomatoes? Pizza too communist for you? Get the Americano Burger and a beer, and remind Roberts who won World War II.

What else about IL GATTO will make guests purr?

* Gentle prices. Most antipasti offerings are less than ten dollars. No entrees reach the upper twenties. And our wine prices seem to have been set by drunks. Oh, and then there's... * A standard-setting $3 Happy Hour. Offered in the bar every day from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and late night from 10:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, it features delicious small plates, wines and cocktails. * A guest-friendly design. "Try to find a bad seat in IL GATTO," says Roberts. "There aren't any. From comfort to sightlines, every table's a winner. * Membership in the Parasole Dining Club. Members can earn and redeem points good for dollars off food and drink at IL GATTO and all the other Parasole restaurants. Better yet, enrollment is free.

The nitty-gritty on the kitty:

* IL GATTO serves dinner only. The restaurant opens at 4:30 p.m. seven days a week. The kitchen remains open until 1:00 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. * Ample parking is available. Use the attached Calhoun Square municipal ramp, or valet it Thursday through Saturday evenings outside the front door. * Location. Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. So., Minneapolis, MN 55408. Phone. 612-822-1688.

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By the way: Why the name IL GATTO?

"The name is Italian for 'The Cat'", explained Roberts. "The restaurant's design is be sleek, fluid and muscular like a cat, but distinctly urban, even gritty. Imagine the offspring of a purebred and the Coliseum cat who seduced her.

"By the way, this 'gatto' has definitely NOT had its balls cut off." About Executive Chef Matt Kempf

Matt Kempf brings a unique multicultural food style to IL GATTO. He credits his distinctive approach to experiences at the Twin Cities' top restaurants, including Goodfellows and A Rebours, where he held the position of executive chef. Matt has also held the honors of guest chef at the James Beard house in New York and Lux in Hong Kong.