Risotto is a new Lyn-Lake restaurant with a forgettable name and an all-but-invisible location. Only the most careful observers will realize it isn’t merely an extension of neighborhood mainstay It’s Greek to Me, which stands next door. This is tragic, because in this little, half-concealed restaurant hides one thing that Minneapolis desperately needs: a region-specific Italian restaurant. Most of our Italian restaurants are pan-Italian, bundling all of Italy’s 20 regions into one cuisine: Tuscan olives beside Piedmontese cream sauces beside Sicilian spice. This is akin to having one “American” restaurant that serves Yankee seafood, Carolina barbecue, and Santa Fe specialties.
Risotto, however, is capable of that rarest trait in this town: specificity. This is thanks to their Italian-born chef and owner, Gabriel Lo Pinto, who local diners know from his time cooking at Arezzo in Edina. Lo Pinto is bona fide Italian. He grew up in Genoa. His dad hails from Sicily, and he has cooked in Italian restaurants his whole life, all of which has added up to his cooking pan-Italian food at an uncommonly high level. Try his frittura mista, a mixed plate of battered and fried calamari rings and assorted vegetables, to see how good they have it in Venice. Each bit of seafood is so light it practically sparkles. The saffron risotto is even better. This simple dish of saffron, rice, and sautéed sausage, from Lo Pinto’s grandmother’s recipe, has a big dusty, smoky burst of true fresh saffron, which unites the creamy rice and zesty sausage.
“Is it hard to find fresh saffron in Minnesota?” I asked Lo Pinto when I called him up to find out a little more about his cooking. “No, it’s just hard to pay for it,” he told me. The fresh saffron in the risotto runs $75 an ounce! Next time I head to Risotto, I’m going to get that dish and beg Lo Pinto to put more Sicilian items on the menu. I think you should do the same.
610 W. Lake St., Mpls.
Open Monday– Saturday 11 a.m.–2 p.m.; Monday–Thursday 5 p.m.–9 p.m.; Friday, Saturday 5 p.m.– 10 p.m.; closed Sunday.