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5 Questions with Elizabeth Tinucci of Colossal Café


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john and elizabeth tinucci, photo courtesy colossal cafe

A Twin Cities institution, the Colossal Café is known for its fresh, locally–sourced ingredients and quality service. The Tinucci family—Carrie and John, along with daughter Elizabeth—bought the Minneapolis restaurant, a breakfast and lunch spot known for serving diner food without the requisite grease, in 2010. They opened up a second location in St. Anthony Park a year later, and a third Colossal was recently added to the corner of Grand and Hamline Avenues in St. Paul. No matter how many cafés they open, though, the Tinuccis’ focus on friendly service and quality ingredients remains intact.

1. You pride yourselves on using fresh, seasonal ingredients. How do you ensure that quality?

It all starts at the source of the ingredient, right? Someone is planting, raising and caring for each item that comes into our kitchen so we have tried to have some really good partners who supply us with products that have been cared for and respected from the start. These partners include people like the Peterson’s at Ferndale Farms where we source our free range, all natural turkey products from— they are another small, family owned business who takes pride in what they produce. We have many partners like the Peterson’s who start us with fabulous, fresh, quality products we are proud to serve.

2. Have you considered expanding to dinner service?

We did take that leap and it was wonderful and we were successful while it lasted, but it was a “quality of life” decision to step back when we did. It’s not to say we may not do it again, in the future, but right now we need to focus on the three places we have and be good at what we are currently doing.

3. What changes did you make when you took over the Colossal in 2010? What did you absolutely have to keep the same?

The food already spoke for itself – we added a different personality to the operation. We offered more friendly service and treated everyone like they were family. At first we were cautious about changing any of the food, but over the course of the years, we have definitely made some changes and additions to make it our own. 

4. Do you have any advice for restaurateurs taking over beloved institutions?

Don’t be afraid to bring in your own style and be very good to the established customers. If something is good – don’t mess with it. 

5. You are well known for your Flappers. Is there a story behind the name? What makes them unique?

Oh, my—I could go on and on. I believe it is a Greek recipe from the previous owner—we have had Greek folks share with us that it is something they used to prepare and eat. The brandy, the yeast, the barometric pressure— they all affect the recipe. 

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