photo by tj turner
There’s a deep satisfaction to twirling a fork through fresh pasta at Parella, surrounded by the campfire perfume of its wood-fueled oven. The former Figlio space, on the corner of Lake and Hennepin, practically begs to be an Italian eatery. So Parella’s team, which includes restaurateur (and Figlio alum) Michael Larson and chef Todd Macdonald (a Minnesota native whose résumé includes several esteemed NYC restaurants), wisely went with a modern take on the popular cuisine.
The pastas are humble classics given a fresh update. Strozzapreti pasta twirls and knobs of sweet sausage are nestled in a fennel pollen and lemon sauce. Wheat spaghetti has a satisfying chew, minimally adorned with the buttery crunch of breadcrumbs, a twangy hint of anchovy, and zing of lemon.
The most delicious dishes are those that seem deceptively simple, including a mountain of fresh greens augmented with fresh herbs and pastry chef Khanh Tran’s panna cotta granita, which ought to be the mandatory finale to every meal. The dessert is a study in subtle, elegant flavors, at once lush and creamy, with an icy, citrus crunch.
If only everything worked so well. Crudo is having a menu moment, but isn’t always successful here. On one occasion, raw tuna was briny brilliance with an herbal swipe of pesto; on another, the same lump of fish arrived tepid, 45 minutes after the order was placed; thin disks of scallop crudo had fused with the chilled, white plate on which they were served. Across the menu, many dishes were in desperate need of a pinch of salt: cauliflower, octopus, watermelon-peach salad—even the pizza.
Service can be just as uneven. On one occasion, every need was met before we even voiced a request; another visit required active flagging for every need, from water, to ordering, to the offered bread basket that never did appear. To guarantee a good evening at Parella, stick to the hot pastas, that one cool dessert, and allow for a little extra time to linger.
3001 Hennepin, Ave., Mpls.