New Restaurant Review: Momento in St. Paul

Perfectly designed for the pre-show, pre-game downtown St. Paul crowd

Pazzaluna’s time had come and gone. There’s little question one of the most popular stops for dinner and a drink before an event at the Xcel Energy Center was in need of a refresh. Momento is off to a good start as a replacement. A nice bar is the center of the room, and cocktails will get you ready nicely for a show at the Ordway or a Wild game (you can’t beat the Gin & tonic for $9)!

Momento is sort of a counter-service/QR-code operation. You order via a QR code menu, and a server brings it out. I know we’ve gotten used to it, but I just picture a room full of people headed to a play flummoxed by this place getting their orders right. Luckily there are servers who can take care of the situation for you. The room itself looks great—cool blues, an open floor plan. It’s friendly and accessible, just like the menu.

Momento fried-chicken sandwich

There’s a burger so solid they called it “the ole reliable.” Now it’s the “in n’ around burger” with caramelized onion and sharp cheddar, fries included for $14. There’s a better-than-reliable fried chicken sandwich brined in pickle juice and a zingy/not-spicy “mo’ sauce” ($15). My oldest was particularly impressed that the chicken didn’t hang over the bun—one of his pet peeves is the messed-up chicken-to-bun ratio that seems to favor giant chicken breasts.

The wasabi pea tempura cauliflower is a really fun dish for the spring, with Calabrian honey and wasabi ponzu dipping sauce. Crunchy, vegetal, zippy—all the perfect small-plate notes ($14).

Perhaps no surprise that my favorite was the pizza, considering the wonderful wood-fired oven that was a feature of the old Pazzaluna. The pizza of the moment ($19) on our visit didn’t skimp on the spice, with Calabrian chiles and a nice red sauce that made our sausage-and-arugula pizza pop. You can choose a basic margherita, a pepperoni, or a sausage from the regular menu.

Momento advertises an emphasis on char from the wood-fired oven, and on our visit that was a work in progress. The grilled Caesar ($16) could have used more time on the grill. Same with the wood-fired shrimp we added to the rich, creamy, dreamy adult mac and cheese. For the season, the mac was replaced on the menu by a chicken risotto, and it’s also finished in the fire ($19).

360 St. Peter St., St. Paul, 651-223-7000,