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The new Giulia isn't your average hotel restaurant

At the Emery, you'll find a James Beard Award-nominated chef, a Spyhouse Coffee with beer and wine, and adorable little wood-fired pizzas like this guy.

At the Emery, you'll find a James Beard Award-nominated chef, a Spyhouse Coffee with beer and wine, and adorable little wood-fired pizzas like this guy. Stacy Brooks

Marble columns, lush greenery, sunlight pouring in through skylights: The lobby at the Emery is the first hint that it’s anything but a bland downtown hotel for the stuffy business set.

An extensive renovation and rebrand of the property formerly known as the Hotel Minneapolis, the Emery fully reopens today (Wednesday, April 3). In conjunction with the hotel’s launch, today is also the opening date for Giulia, a restaurant located in the former Restaurant Max space.

Another new addition is tucked into a corner of the lobby: Spyhouse Coffee’s first downtown Minneapolis location. The local chain’s standard menu of espresso drinks will be available, as well as pastries from Black Walnut Bakery and Mojo Monkey Donuts. There’s kombucha on tap, and beer and wine will be available after 2 p.m.

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks

The Emery’s focus on integrating local businesses carries over to the hotel rooms themselves, with mini bars stocked with snacks from Minnesota brands like Funky Chunky, Isadore Nut Co., and TC Chocolate. Local sips include Crooked Waters spirits, Finnegan’s beers, and So Good So You probiotic shots.

A centerpiece of the hotel’s redesign is Giulia, a contemporary Italian restaurant inspired by Steven Brown (Tilia and St. Genevieve) and helmed by Josh Hedquist (a familiar face from the Copper Hen and a couple of Food Network appearances).

Like the hotel lobby, the restaurant is light and open, the bottles of spirits behind the bar sparkling with a jewel-like luminescence. The best seats in the house are at the kitchen counter, where diners can watch pizzas cook in the gas-fired ceramic oven.

“[Giulia] is Italian-inspired, with a local influence,” says Hedquist. “We like using things in our backyard—that’s the Italian way.” He cites flour and venison as a couple of the featured local ingredients.

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks

The menu focuses on a tightly curated selection of Northern Italian fare: a couple of house-made pastas, a few pizzas, a handful of meaty entrees. The cocktail list has a dedicated section of negroni variations, and the lunch menu includes paninis and soup.

One of the most unusual items on the menu is the mozzarella a mano, which is pulled tableside and served with a choice of garnishes like peppers, olive tapenade, or spec and arugula. Hedquist explains that the process starts with fresh, local curd. Then, hot saltwater is cut into the curd by hand.

“Mozzarella talks to you, it lets you know when it’s coming together,” he says as he transforms the crumbly curds into a smooth strand of mozzarella before our eyes. Thanks to the saltwater and a finishing drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the mozzarella has a gentle punch of flavor, and its made-minutes-ago freshness gives it a delightful suppleness.

We also sampled the Napoli pizza, which is topped with tomato, burrata, and basil. “I like that style of pizza,” says Hedquist. “Less is more.”

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks

Indeed, the simplicity of the toppings allowed us to appreciate the well-crafted crust. The pizza dough is fermented for 48 hours, and Hedquist describes it as “both crunchy and chewy—it’s a thin crust, but with lots of gluten development.”

Another menu highlight is the agnolotti, a pasta filled with venison and pinched together by hand. “Inside is where the magic happens,” says Brown. “You need to eat them whole so that they pop.” In lieu of a heavy sauce, they’re served with sage and garlic butter, crisp fried sage leaves, and a grating of Parmesan.

We appreciated the contrast between the venison’s lean, gamey taste and the thick richness of the pasta dough, and yes, they really do pop in your mouth.

For dessert, we tried the black cocoa budino, a layered confection of amaretti cookies soaked in coffee and brandy, dark chocolate pudding, and caramel. A sprinkling of hazelnuts and a coffee crumb topping adds a crunchy spark that ties everything together.

If we had to sum up Giulia—or in fact, the Emery—in a single bite, that budino would do it. It’s elegant and thoughtful, but it’s not the sort of dessert you need to delicately pick at. Instead, you can dig into with gusto.

“I hope I didn’t ruin your dinner,” Brown said as he watched us scrape up the final bit of caramel.

Of course he did. And every single bite was worth it.

Giulia at Hotel Emery
215 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
612-340-2000; dinegiulia.com

Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks