Mucci's elevates old-school Italian food above nostalgia

Too often classic Italian restaurants coast on nostalgia. But Mucci's — the tiny, bustling Italian joint in St. Paul’s West Seventh neighborhood — rises above with culinary panache. It takes all that is good about this sort of classic restaurant and makes it righteously and truly great. Mucci’s is your old-school family red-sauce place, remastered with boundless finesse. "It's more culinarily driven than I expected," says Tim Niver, longtime St. Paul restaurateur and the brains behind the place. He originally conceived of Mucci's as a takeout pizza and pasta place, but it eventually took on a mind of its own. Mucci’s magic is giving the simplest things, down to the house salad, the Midas touch. Greens are so fresh, chilled, and taut that each individual leaf stands at attention like a little green soldier. House vinaigrette is perfectly balanced, and a light dusting of Locatelli cheese (a cousin to Romano) offers a restrained finish. Would that all salads were this precise. Spaghetti and meatballs get a makeover while still remaining their steadfast selves, just better and more beautiful. Noodles are fatter than the spaghetti you know, the circumference of a drinking straw. They arrive cooked to the texture that would please a kid, not the "al dente" so prized in the pasta world. This is comfort food. The pork and beef meatballs are the gold standard of meatballs, and another snow-cover dusting of Locatelli makes this the spaghetti to possibly beat them all. Read our full review here.