Midwesterners are finally able to satisfy their cravings for crudo and hand-made pastas—this summer, the Twin Cities have been brimming with new opportunities for authentic Italian fare. Since June, three new restaurants have brought a taste of Italy to Minneapolis.
Now that the dust has settled, here’s what the chefs at Il Foro, Parella, and Monello have to say about the happening in (and-out of) the kitchen.
Chef: Mike DeCamp
Opening Date: June 1
Restaurant repertoire: After getting his start at D’Amico Cucina, Chef DeCamp (better known as YC or “Young Chef”) worked at James Beard Award–winner Tim McKee’s now-shuttered Spanish-style restaurant Solera. He then ventured to Chicago, where he crafted inventive American dishes at Nomi, and most recently worked at Minneapolis Mediterranean eatery La Belle Vie on and off over the past decade.
Dining atmosphere: “I would like to say it falls into casual fine dining. It is bright, airy, and open—a big departure from before. The columns, light-wood flooring, and tiling in the dining room are all beautiful.”
Inside the kitchen: “I have a good mix of people that I have and haven’t worked with in the past. A few people came with me from La Belle Vie, along with a few people I’ve met around town. The ones that won’t work out in the kitchen weed themselves out at the start, but that didn’t happen too much.”
Menu must-haves: “I like the langoustine with black garlic and chive. We try to let the fish speak for itself by not masking with too many flavors. Another favorite is the octopus; it’s one of our best sellers. We get the most feedback on our torchio [pasta with braised rabbit and crème fraiche]—we can never take it off the menu.”
Standout feature: “Our dining room is a little more elegant than what you will find other places. I haven’t been to the other new Italian restaurants in town yet, but we are all different enough. We take what they do and take it to the next level. From service, to style, to waiters’ wear.”
1115 2nd Ave. S., Mpls.
orchiette at il foro, photo by tj turner
Chef: Joe Rolle
Opening date: June 16
Restaurant repertoire: Chef Joe is a self-proclaimed, “old school punk-rock badass meets charmer.” The super-charismatic chef has spent time honing his skills in charcuterie at Haute Dish and working on projects at Butcher and the Boar, but began his cooking journey at the Dakota Jazz Club.
Dining atmosphere: “The historical Art Deco interior is quite stunning to look at. You’re looking at a piece of history that’s close to 100 years old. One of our goals was to keep the atmosphere between the restaurant, kitchen, and bar very high energy.”
Inside the kitchen: “The team is awesome. They all followed me from my previous job, so they know me, my standards, and how I like the kitchen organized. It makes my life easier because I don’t need to be [involved] constantly, I like to keep the floor open for creativity. There is a lot of death metal, heavy metal, and rock played in the kitchen.”
Menu must-haves: “The yellowtail and our squid ink pasta with octopus, tomato, and chorizo—it has a lot of Spanish influence. The rabbit cacciatore is a take on a version my grandpa used to make. Our meatballs are popular…we are very proud of them.”
Standout feature: “We wanted to bring a new style of restaurant to the Twin Cities. It’s an Italian-inspired restaurant, not 100% Italian. It’s my take on Italian flavors combined with other flavors I grew up around. There’s a lot of underlying French technique, even though the dishes are Italian. Some is a bit modern, and a lot is old world. Mainly, we want to be a flavor-driven restaurant.”
36 S. 7th St., Mpls.
todd macdonald at parella, photo by Joe Ferrucci
Chef: Todd MacDonald
Opening date: July 13
Restaurant repertoire: Chef Todd has a hefty history in the restaurant world. He began working at Ciattis in the Galleria throughout high school, and his later adventures as a chef took him to across the map to San Francisco, Boston, and New York before coming back to Minneapolis. One of his most notable ventures was opening an Italian restaurant in the Meatpacking District of New York. The upper level housed the fine-dining restaurant while the lower-level space offered dishes at a more accessible price point
Dining atmosphere: “I’m from south Minneapolis and my two partners have been working in the area, so we feel a great attachment to the Hennepin Ave.–Lake Street area. We really wanted to cultivate that neighborhood feel. We wanted the space to airy and inviting, we used light colors to open it up and bring in a lot of light. It is a fun meeting space to share food or a drink.”
Inside the kitchen: “I’m a Minneapolis transfer, so I had to vet my kitchen staff and work from scratch. It is a difficult time to find cooks, but they are all doing great. We are all learning how each other works, that’s just the nature of opening a restaurant.”
Menu must-haves: “There are no spaghetti and meatballs on this menu—if an Italian saw you putting meatballs on spaghetti, they would kill you. I try to stay true to what I like about Italy, and that is simplicity. A few standouts at the strozzapreti pasta with long, twisty noodles with lemon and fennel, the cast iron mussels, and the mixed green salad. I was bored with simple greens and dressing of a mixed green salad, so I made a mix of twenty different greens and herbs, so every bite you take is different. My whole roasted suckling pig is a crowd favorite. We roast the pig and have it on a platter in the dining room—the vegans are horrified, but everyone else thinks it’s pretty cool.”
Standout feature: “We’re all doing something a little bit different. Mike’s [of Monello] sensibility is much more refined technique when it comes to preparation and presentation, where mine is a bit more rustic. Joe [of IL Foro] is a good buddy of mine, and he’s doing fantastic stuff. We are all creating amazing food at different locations, so it’s a non-compete.”
3001 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
Stay tuned… Keep on the lookout for Scena and Polpo, two additional Italian joints soon to hit Minneapolis.