Legitimately Excited About Il Gatto!

The last big restaurant opening of the year will be Il Gatto, the restaurant Parasole is going to put into their old Figlio space in Uptown. I haven’t been too excited about Il Gatto; all the advance press makes it sound like an Italian Salut—that is, Italian, with burgers (and ahi tuna appetizers?).

In retrospect, I feel like Parasole’s Burger Jones was so disappointing because it delivered so little true hospitality and love and ambition to its customers. Am I insane to expect that from a restaurant? No doubt, but I have felt that other Parasole restaurants really do deliver more than mere French fries. (Muffaletta, for instance, I feel delivers cozy hospitality and real cooking; Chino Latino gives lots of energy and fun leavened with a little national ambition vis-à-vis the bar food; Manny’s delivers power-dining with both barrels; even the two Salut’s deliver chic value.) And with Parsole’s track record with Italian (they gave birth to and spun off Buca), we all know they’re capable of doing good-enough Italian in their sleep. But will they stretch? Will they try to do more than what they can do in their sleep? I got my first inkling that they just might because: They’ve hired pastry chef Adrienne Odom!

Adrienne Odom, you may recall, was one of the most talented pastry chefs we’ve ever had in Minnesota. She came here initially to open our long-gone Aquavit, and then launched the pastry programs at La Belle Vie and Solera, which were breathtaking.

I think my best-of-the-year wrap-up from 2006 put it nicely: “Any top list of the year would include the work of brilliant pastry chef Adrienne Odom. The one La Belle Vie dessert that I can never recover from was an espresso semi-freddo with a warm, buttery orange cake, pithless Satsuma sections, and cardamom foam. Eating it was like zipping through the clouds of an imaginary vacation in Milan: sensuous, cosmopolitan, and dreamy.”

Oh, those were the days. But, Odom left Minneapolis to return to New York and to Aquavit, but her timing was terrible; the restaurant soon downsized and Odom was out of a job. Then the Great Recession hit, and, if you haven’t followed it, New York fine-dining has been hit as severely as our own has. She eventually returned to town and now has landed at Parasole.

Parasole’s spokesperson, Kip Clayton, tells me that Odom will eventually be in charge of all the Parasole restaurant pastry programs, from Salut to Muffaletta to everything, but right now is focusing her energy on Il Gatto, which will really truly open November 23. I tried to get some dessert menu items out of Clayton, but the only item he’d tell me about was the “Limoncello Tiramisu,” which kind of sounds awful. I trust they’re either just pranking me because of my negative Burger Jones review, or that it won’t be. Anyway, the news of Odom’s return has left me legitimately excited about Il Gatto, which is nice. Are you excited too?

Il Gatto (Opening November 23!), 3001 Hennepin Ave. S., Mpls., www.figlio.com