Momento in St. Paul Ready for Its Moment to Shine

Former Pazzaluna space offers elevated Mediterranean fare and innovative cocktails

Tonya Sutfin

Dining in downtown St. Paul is having a moment. Last week, Wrestaurant at the Palace opened next to the Palace Theatre. An expanded and updated Ruam Mit is expected to open soon in its new spot at the corner of Wabasha and Fifth streets. And now the reimagined and refreshed Momento is open again with a vibrant Mediterranean menu in the former Pazzaluna space across the street from Landmark Plaza.

We sampled the menu the first night it reopened Wednesday and loved many of the dishes and thoughtful cocktails. The service was impeccable and attentive as well.

Momento's tortalloni le march
Momento’s tortalloni le march

Tonya Sutfin

For nearly two decades, Pazzaluna was one of our go-to spots for its popular happy hour specials or before a show at the Ordway. The patio was a favorite too. We were sad to see it close during COVID-19. And when Morrissey Hospitality* re-opened the space last spring as Momento, it was half the size but with a wide-open bar and a stunning Adam Turman mural replacing the striking Venus de Milo mosaic. We missed the vibe and Italian fare of Pazzaluna.

This summer, Momento closed for a month (as they all tend to do in Europe) to rework almost everything by bringing in executive chef Aaron Uban, who was working about half a block away at Kincaid’s. He has also worked at Strip Club Meat & Fish and Heartland, so he knows a thing or two about St. Paul diners and deftly draws on his Italian training and knowledge of Mediterranean spices and dishes.

Momentos’ trio of spreads with flatbread and Paper Boat cocktail

Tonya Sutfin

We started with the generous trio of spreads that includes a signature foole, or smashed fava bean dip, as well as delish whipped feta and balanced baba ghanoush. Sometimes baba ghanoush can completely overpower other dips with its garlic-forward flavor, but this one is perfect with the grilled flatbread. The serving easily fed four of us, as well.

For entrees, we devoured the tortalloni le march, an expertly prepared pasta dish with short ribs, chicken, and mortadella served with the saffron brodo broth poured tableside. We also sampled the dayboat scallop dish that features very thinly sliced raw scallops alongside a confusing salted beef selection. Anyone expecting the traditional plump scallops may not be prepared for this combination. We loved the spiciness of the tomato sauce in the frutti di mare dish, as well.

Momento’s dayboat scallop dish

Tonya Sutfin

But the dishes aren’t the only star of this remade show. Momento also brought in beverage manager Kevin Tester to create and curate a Mediterranean-inspired menu of cocktails, wines, zero-proof drinks, and other tasty beverages. I’ve never had a Sazerac like this before; Tester’s creation is called the Saffronac and features date-infused Buffalo Trace, Knob Creek Rye, and saffron honey, garnished with fennel pollen. It was served with a chaser of absinthe, which I sipped before combining both in one glass for a knockout drink. A selection of lemoncellos and meloncellos were refreshing digestifs, and I applaud Momento’s extensive spirit-free selections, as well, for those of us doing Dry January, Sober September, or simply not drinking alcohol.

Momento has definitely raised the bar with these updates and its focus on Mediterranean-healthy food and drink. A big bravo, and we’ll be back.

*Minnesota Monthly Associate Publisher Arthur Morrissey is a co-owner of Morrissey Hospitality but was not involved in this review.

As Travel Editor of Minnesota Monthly, Amy creates impactful, surprising, timely and insightful content that reflects the Spirit of Minnesota. An award-winning newspaper and magazine editor based in the Twin Cities, Amy has decades of experience guiding coverage of luxury living, arts and culture, style and travel topics across multiple platforms. She has interviewed personalities ranging from Prince to Roger Goodell and has stories to tell.