Review: Monello

photo by tj turner

Since the 2009 shuttering of downtown fine-dining stalwart D’Amico Cucina, there’s been a void in the Twin Cities’ upscale-Italian market—until the recent spate of restaurateurs climbing on top of one another to give diners a reason to ditch their denim and shine their shoes.

Monello, the ground-floor restaurant in downtown Minneapolis’ Hotel Ivy, is among this new wave of eateries, which share similarities in their focus on handmade pastas and seafood, notably served rare, as crudo.  The space was formerly home to Porter & Frye, a powerhouse of creative cooking that struggled to attract crowds despite its staff of talented chefs.

Hoping a concept reboot might awaken the sleepy location, the owners brought in chef Mike “YC” DeCamp. The initials stand for “Young Chef,” and though the nickname stuck when DeCamp started working in kitchens in his early teens, he’s been around the block. DeCamp has done stints at D’Amico Cucina, Campiello, and, most recently, as the longtime chef de cuisine at La Belle Vie—considered the pinnacle of Twin Cities fine dining for many years.

Monello presents a cohesive experience to diners: impeccable service, beautiful plates, and small portions packed with flavor. The crudo section impresses with its rarefied parings, from sea urchin dressed with tart apple and smoked bone marrow to yellowtail with chilies and tomato. Tender grilled octopus drizzled with savory paprika glaze is a standout, but dainty pasta dishes are where DeCamp shows off his talent for balancing flavors. A dish of agnolotti (a variant of ravioli) filled with goat cheese borders on too rich, but the heaviness is cut by bright yogurt foam and roasted beets. And torchio (torch-shaped tubes) with braised rabbit and artichokes leaves spoons scraping at the last bits of broth at the bottom of the bowl.

Monello serves meals that deserve the decorum of a skirt or a sportcoat. And after tasting one of pastry chef Amanda Parker’s Italian-inspired desserts, including Mascarpone and lemon semifreddo served with an impossibly light coffee foam, you might even consider black tie.

1115 2nd Ave. S., Mpls.