Would we go back:
981 Sibley Memorial Hwy (Hwy 13)
• Calamari Fritti lightly battered squid with Sicilian sea salt and lemon $12.00(shared)
• Gnocchi (small portion) $9.00 (shared)
• Sturgeon (fish special) w/ orange & tomato and zucchini $26.00
• Sanguinaccio $6.00
Upon walking in this looks like your typical Tuscan style Italian restaurant in the suburbs. Luckily the food was much better, however it was very expensive, so it was a challenge for me to rate an excellent, so I only rated it a good.
First of word of warning, you need to make reservations well in advance, we made them for three weeks from the week we initially picked it to get the 7:00 pm or so time slot that we prefer, if you are more open say 5:45 or 8:45 you might be able to get in sooner.
We did have one of the best seats we have had in sometime, it was a booth that faced out into the dining room so we could really survey what was going on, being the people watcher type of person that I am, I was thrilled.
We started with the calamari which was melt in your mouth calamari, not rubbery as it sometimes can be. The gnocchi was very good, it was nice and light and sauce, while not stellar, was very good. I don't think I have ever saw sturgeon on a menu before and it was not on theirs either, but a special. It was a great cut of fish and I enjoyed it. The side dishes were unusual, baby zucchini and a orange and tomato salad that was very tasty. My dessert was also very good it was a chocolate pudding, that was nice and creamy and topped with crystallized orange peel which I enjoyed very much.
All that said, I would not go back really due to the price and that there are just as good, if not slightly better Italian restaurants closer to me.
• Pork tenderloin w/ beans $22.00
• Tiramisu $6.00
Sometimes we are asked, “Do you read reviews before going to a restaurant?” The answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no, and sometimes when they are first reviewed and long before we go so that we’ve forgotten the review. The latter appears here, although we did read reviews again after the meal but before rating i nonni. One review was very negative while another review was mixed. Nevertheless, crowds flock for the calamari, osso buco, and tiramisu, all rated readers’ choice best of by Mpls St Paul magazine. We’ve often wondered how reliable reader’s choice awards are. Basically, we’re skeptical, because you rely on readers that live in a particular area to be able to rate restaurants throughout the metro area, which is a daunting task for professionals, let alone amateurs. Also, it’s not scientific because the demographics of readers and their propensity to respond factors into the equation. That said, I really liked their calamari and it may be the best in the Twin Cities. Their tiramisu is very good, but I’d have to give my vote to La Grolla with a runner-up vote to i nonni.
What made the calamari so good? It was lightly breaded and the Sicilian salt was on the outside. It seemed like a fine but powerful salt that penetrated your taste buds. The calamari was fresh and not chewy like bad calamari can be. The plate was large. However, I would caution that their portion sizes are more realistic for four compared to two, as was the price.
The gnocchi was forgettable in my mind. Renee seemed to like it, but I thought it was too heavy and had an odd flavor. The cheese sauce was flavorless and could have been omitted for some fresh accompaniment. Looking over past experiences, The Local (no longer serving dinner) and Sapor stand out as the best gnocchi I’ve had, though finding the best gnocchi in the Twin Cities would be a task in itself.
The pork tenderloin tasted very good. I believe it was served with pancetta, but I’m not certain. I was happy with it being cooked medium as the chefs recommend. At this temperature, the meat retained its flavor and consistency. I was underwhelmed by the accompanying white beans that I didn’t bother to finish. Given the price, though, it was on the expensive side for a pork tenderloin entrée with beans.
The tiramisu, as mentioned above, was very good. Compared to other offerings here, it was adequately priced. [Every time I write that I think restaurateurs scurry to raise prices… but I digress.] If you go, I recommend saving room for the tiramisu.
Some final gripes, quips, comments:
• We needed to make reservations two weeks in advance. This restaurant is not that good. I would attribute the wait to the locale: a trendy, up-and-coming St. Paul suburb with gated communities with homes overlooking the river valley.
• Why did they keep plate-grabbing? Their staff must be under some strict orders to take plates as soon as possible. Really, we prefer to sit and enjoy our food. We don’t want to feel like someone is hovering over us. We can look at olive pits for a few minutes.
• Yes, they had a crumber, but the server misused it at the end of the meal. The general rule: remove the crumbs after the entrée plates are bussed. Our server whipped dessert menus in front of us first. Then, the de-crumbing felt like an afterthought; as if to say, “Oh well, since you’re ordering dessert, I guess I can clear the crumbs.” I prefer when the crumbs are removed first; as if to say, “Sit. Enjoy the rest of your drinks. Relax. Talk more. We’ll be around in a minute.”
$20 and up
March 19, 2005