Feb 262012

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by Morrissey HospitalityAll opinions are my own.

Cuisine: Italian
Restaurant Features: Banquet, Bar, Valet Parking
Location: St Paul, MN (Downtown)
Address: 360 St. Peter Street, Saint Paul, MN 55102 651.223.7000
Hours: Daily 4-11pm
Links: Pazzaluna Website * Pazzaluna on Facebook * Google Map

Atmosphere: Located Downtown St Paul on St Peter Street, Pazzaluna is in the heart of St Paul’s entertainment district , putting it within walking distance of The Ordway, Xcel Energy Center, Roy Wilkins Auditorium and the Science Museum of Minnesota.  The space is big and open, with the bar area greeting you when you first enter and the dining room taking up the remainder of the space.  The dining room actually has two tiers; an upper and lower.  The upper dining area has a separate room with French doors that can be used for private parties.  There are a handful of round booths but otherwise all of the tables in the dining room can easily be arranged for parties of various sizes.

The Kitchen at Pazzaluna is big and open, the center of which is a beautiful  green wood-burning oven.  It is set off to the side of the restaurant, you walk right by it on the way to the restrooms.

Menu: Appetizers at Pazzaluna include Bruschetta (White Bean & Prosciutto, Tomato Basil, Portabella Goat Cheese, Burrata & Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Braised Beef & Porcini Mushroom), Polenta Fries, Mozzarella & Artichoke Bagna Cauda, Calamari, Seared Scallops, Crab Cakes and Antipasti Bar (cheeses, meats, salad and vegetables).

Soups offered are the Scallop with Cucumber and Cannellini Bean.  Salads offered are the Mixed Greens, Caesar, Arugula, Shepherd, Beet and Panzanella.

Pazzaluna also offers traditional  12″ thin crust hearth baked Pizzas in a wood-burning oven.  Varieties include Quattro Formaggi, Grilled Vegetable, Pear and Gorgonzola, Margherita, Bolognese, Spicy Sausage and Peppers, and Grilled Chicken with Asparagus.

Pasta dishes include Spicy Penne, Rigatoni with Chicken, Capellini alla Caprese, Fettuccine Alfredo, Pappardelle Bolognese, Spaghetti & Meatballs, Seafood Linguine, Spinach and Cheese Ravioli, and Three Meat Cannelloni.  Pazzaluna also makes homemade Gnocchi.  Varieties of Gnocchi include Bolognese, Quatro Formagi, and Tomato Basil. Risotto options include Saffron Risotto with Chicken, and Herb Risotto with Shrimp and Chorizo.

Pazzaluna offers Entrees such as Salmon, Ahi Tuna, Sea Bass, Scallops, Rabbit, Chicken Saltimbocca, Chicken Piccata, Chicken Parmesan, Pork Chops, Beef Short Ribs, Veal Medallions, Filet Mignon, and New York Strip.

Desserts at Pazzaluna include Creme Brulee, Tiramisu, Mocha Cheesecake, Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Versato, Banana Nutella Tart, Frangelico Pecan Pie, Gelato, and Sorbeti.

Price guide: Appetizers $8-14 Salads $7-11 Pastas $14-24 Entrees $19-45

Happy Hour:

  • Daily 4-6pm * In The Bar
  • $3 Beefeater, Pinnacle, Bacardi, Windsor or Campari Featured Cocktails Michelob Golden Light
  • $4 Stella Pinot Grigio or Montepuliciano D’Abruzzo, Summit EPA, Summit Seasonal or Blue Moon
  • $5 Coppola Bianco White Blend or Rosso Red Blend Fulton IPA, Stella Artois or Surly Bender ; $5 Two Antipasti Bar Selections, Fried Gorgonzola Gnocchi, Polenta Fries, Tomato Basil Bruschetta or White Bean & Prosciutto Bruschetta
  • $6 Pazzaluna Signature Cocktails Pazzaluna Signature Martinis  Appetizers: Three Antipasti Bar Selections, Portabella & Goat Cheese Bruschetta, Four Cheese Pizza, Pear & Gorgonzola Pizza, or Veggie Pizza
  • $7 Four Antipasti Bar Selections, Burrata & EVOO Bruschetta, Margherita Pizza, Bolognese Pizza or Chicken & Asparagus Pizza
  • $8 Five Antipasti Bar Selections, Braised Beef & Porcini Bruschetta, Rustica Pizza, Calamari or Mozzarella & Artichoke Bagna Cauda

Birthday Special: Dine at Pazzaluna the week of your birthday and they’ll give you a complimentary* bottle of wine priced at your age. *Purchase of two (2) entrees required. Offer valid for in-store consumption only. Equivalent credit of person’s age can be applied to a higher priced bottle of wine. Proof of age and birthday required. Must be 21 years or older. Offer good for one birthday per table.
What we ordered: We started with the complimentary basket of bread.  It contained slices of fresh ciabatta and focaccia.  The focaccia was especially tasty, as it was seasoned with butter, parmesan and herbs.

There are many delicious appetizers at Pazzaluna, making it hard to pick just one. For our first course we started with the Seared Scallops and an order of Calamari.  The Seared Scallops were cooked to perfection, with a nice caramelized seared crust and soft meat within.  The dish was garnished with slices of skinless pink grapefruit, orange, fresh mint and other fresh herbs.

We also tried the Calamari with our first course.  Pazzaluna puts their own spin on the traditional fried calamari by adding thin slices of carrots, zucchini and sweet onions and frying those too.  It was delicious, I loved the combination of textures and flavors.  The order was very big; piled several inches high and full of vegetables with lightly battered calamari rings tossed in (and a few pepperoncini peppers too!).  The dish was drizzled with a zesty roasted garlic aioli that finished the dish off nicely.

For our next course, my companion and I split the Beet Salad, which was served to us on two plates.  The base of this appetizing salad were the salt-roasted beets, which had a firm yet juicy texture.  We both enjoyed this salad quite a bit; it had such a unique combination of flavors and textures including shaved goat cheese that was subtle yet distinct at the same time.  The candied walnuts provided a nice crunch and hint of sweetness and the micro-greens were fragrant and refreshing.

Pazzaluna is known for its Bolognese sauce, which they offer with a selection of dishes. For our next course, we tried a half-order of the Bolognese Papperdelle and a half order of the Gnocchi Bolognese.  The sauce was a thick and rich blend of ground beef, pork, tomato, onion and a variety of Italian herbs and spices.  It was delicious and would be great on any pasta but was especially good served on the long strips of papperdelle.  Our server grated fresh parmesan on top giving it that extra touch.

The Gnocchi at Pazzaluna are made in-house and are fantastic!  They are soft potato dumplings that are sticky, velvety pillows that on their own don’t have much flavor but when topped with a thick and rich sauce like the Bolognese, they are delicious.

For my main course I ordered the Sea Bass.  This was wonderful! The fish was pan roasted until it had a nice crispy sear to the outside while being soft inside. It was served on a bed of carrot purée, and was topped with red onion jam with a drizzling of salsa verde on the plate.

My companion had the Veal Medallions for the main course and it was the highlight of the meal. The veal itself was cooked to a medium temperature and was extremely flavorful and juicy.  The medallions were served on linguine with garlic butter with sautéed porcini mushrooms & spinach.  The dish was topped with a silky roasted tomato butter sauce.  The server topped it with freshly ground pepper corns

I was much too full for dessert but ended up ordering the Banana Nutella Tart.  This was also very good; it had a layer of chocolate Nutella custard, then a layer of banana in a vanilla cream, then topped with real whipped cream.  It was topped with a wafer of caramelized nuts.

Service: We had excellent service at Pazzaluna, starting with the curb-side valet service.  We had a reservation ahead of time and our table was waiting when we got there.  Our server was very professional and highly knowledgeable about the menu, giving us many excellent suggestions from each section of the menu.  Each course that we had was separate and distinct, with plenty of time in between each.
Overall Impression: We really enjoyed our experience at Pazzaluna.  They have a great selection of both pasta and traditional Italian meat and seafood dishes and the service is top-notch.  Pazzaluna is a great place to visit for Happy Hour, a romantic dinner, to celebrate a special occasion or even for larger parties.
Pazzaluna Urban Trattoria & Bar on Urbanspoon
Pazzaluna Reviews in St Paul

Feb 202012

Cuisine: Fine Dining, Italian,
Restaurant Features: Bar, On-Site Parking, Patio, Seasonal Menu, Water-Front
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 4453 Lake Avenue South, White Bear Lake, MN 55110

Hours: Tues-Sun 4-10pm
Links: Acqua Website * Acqua on Facebook * Google Map
Atmosphere: Acqua is located on on Lake Avenue, overlooking White Bear Lake, just a block east of Hwy 61.  Making its home in a structure that was originally a house, Acqua is a small and intimate dining destination.  The lighting is dim and there is only room for a handful of tables on the lower level, but each is adorned with white tablecloths and stemware.  One of the best physical features of Acqua is the patio overlooking the lake, open during the warmer seasons.

Menu: The menu at Acqua changes seasonally.  Small Plates currently offered include Calamari, Bruschetta, Pettine e Foie Gras, Polpette (veal and pork meatball), Mitili (mussels), and Carpaccio (beef tenderloin with black truffle horseradish panna cotta).  There is also a selection of Artisan Cheeses.

Soups at Acqua include Lobster Bisque and Crema di Funghi.  Also offered are salads such as Caesar, Fried Goat Cheese with Golden Beets, Field Greens, and Baby Spinach with Apple-Pear Compote.

Entrees include Black Truffle Gnocchi, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Risotto e Pollo, Rack of Lamb, Sea Scallops, Ossobuco di Porco, Ragu alla Bolgnese, Bacon Wrapped Beef Tenderloin, Lobster Tail, Veal Chop, Crab Encrusted Certified Chilean Sea Bass, and Panko Encrusted Walleye.

Side items also offered include Brussel Sprouts, Malt Vinegar Fries, Roasted Asparagus and Black Truffle Risotto.

Acqua also has excellent, desserts such as Smoked Chocolate Souffle Cake with Marshmallow and Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Oreo Semifreddo with Peanut Butter Ganache, Butterscotch Budino with Caramel, Vanilla Crème Brulee, Almond Panna Cotta with Brandied Cherries and Dark Chocolate, and Trio of Izzy’s Ice Cream or Sorbets.

Price guide: Small Plates $9-15  Soup/Salad $8-10  Entrees $18-45 Desserts $7-8
Daily Special:

  • Daily 3 Course Tasting Menu $35
  • First Course (choice of one): Caesar Salad, Cream of Mushroom Soup, Baby Spinach, Roasted Golden Beet Salad, or Field Greens.
  • Main Course (choice of one): Braised Pork Shank, Roasted Chicken, or Panko Encrusted Walleye.
  • Dessert Course (choice of one): Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee, Trio of Izzy’s Ice Cream or Sorbets, Butterscotch Budino with Caramel, Oreo Semifreddo with Peanut Butter Ganache, Almond Panna Cotta with Brandied Cherries and Dark Chocolate, Smoked Chocolate Souffle with Marshmallow and Graham Cracker Ice Cream

What we ordered: We started with a couple of cocktails; I had the Ginger Jameson, made with real ginger and fresh lime.

My companion had the Mojito, which was very good.  The drink was both sugary and tart, the rum was pleasantly noticeable, and it contained several muddled mint leaves and freshly squeezed lime juice.  While this Mojito is good at any time of the year, I can imagine how refreshing it would be in the summer out on the patio, overlooking the lake on a hot summer day.

Mojito at Acqua Restaurant ~ White Bear Lake, MN

We were brought some bread and butter, both were pretty standard but tasty all the same.  The butter was creamy and salty and the bread was thick and crusty.

We then had an order of Calamari, which was battered and fried crispy.  The calamari were cut into wide strips and were on the verge of being chewy however the flavor and texture of the breading was very good.  It was served with a lemon thyme aioli that was both creamy and citrusy; light and refreshing.  Calamari at Acqua Restaurant ~ White Bear Lake, MN

Foie Gras is one item I will not pass up, when given the chance to eat it. The version at Acqua comes seared atop a giant Massachusetts Day Boat Sea Scallop with a  walnut-blueberry chutney and Cabernet reduction.  This variety of scallop is very meaty and tender and well-matched with the melt-in-your-mouth foie gras. The piece of foie gras was slightly thin but was cooked to a beautiful brown on both sides.  The sauce added just the right amount of sweetness and the walnuts provided a nice crunchy contrast.
Scallop and Foie Gras at Acqua Restaurant ~ White Bear Lake, MN

Scallop and Foie Gras at Acqua Restaurant ~ White Bear Lake, MN

My companion ordered the Tasting Menu, which came with the choice of one of a handful starters offered. Everything sounded good but my companion opted for the Cream of Hen-of-the-Woods Mushroom Soup.  This was the best Cream of Mushroom soup that I have had the pleasure of eating.  It was buttery, creamy, and seasoned so nicely, while having the beautiful robust flavor of roasted mushrooms.  It was drizzled with something slightly sweet and was served with Fontina Cheese Crostini. Absolutely delicious!

There were so many tempting choices for entree and our server did a great job explaining each and every one of them.  It was a very tough choice but I decided on the Branzino Crab Encrusted Certified Chilean Sea Bass.  The dish was prepared with a nice meaty slice of sea bass topped with a delicious, crispy crab mixture served on a bed of roasted red potato wedges and steamed broccolini.  The rich and creamy Chili Buerre Blanc sauce pulled the entire dish together perfectly.

My companion had a choice of three different entrees for the Tasting Menu and went with the Pork Ossobucco. You would think that the entree in a tasting menu would be on the smaller side, but this was a full size pork shank.  The port demi-glace sauce was rich and hearty and the meat extremely tender.  It was served with organic white sweet potato puree that was a nice change of pace from the traditional mashed potato.Braised Pork Shank with Port Demi-Glace and Sweet Potato Puree at Acqua Restaurant ~ White Bear lake, MN

We were beyond full at this point but since my companion had a dessert coming with the Tasting Menu, we ordered the Chocolate Souffle with Marshmallow Fluff and Graham Cracker Ice Cream. Every aspect of this dish was delicious; a gourmet spin on the traditional S’More.

Service: Weekend reservations quickly fill up at Acqua, so I wasn’t surprised that I couldn’t get a table until after 9pm with a weeks notice.  Our table was waiting for us when we got there and our server quickly introduced himself and was a real gentleman all evening.  He took his time to explain the menu to us and answered any questions we had about the dishes.  He was attentive but also very respectful of our privacy.  The courses were brought out to us with time in between so that we never felt rushed.
Overall Impression: We had heard great things about Acqua and it certainly lived up to the expectation.  The dishes and cocktails were well executed and the service was impeccable.  Highly recommend the Cream of Mushroom Soup and the Foie Gras.  The Three Course Tasting menu with many options for $35 is an excellent deal.
Acqua Restaurant and Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Oct 232011

Cuisine: American, Italian, Pizza, Pasta, Ice Cream, Dessert
Restaurant Features: On-Site Parking, Gluten-Free Menu
Location: White Bear Lake, MN
Address: 2692 East County Road E  White Bear Lake, MN 55110 651-777-9199
Links: Donatelli’s Website * Donatelli’s on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: Donatelli’s is a popular family restaurant located within a strip mall on the south end of White Bear, right next to JJ’s Bierstube.  The restaurant itself is long and narrow, with a main dining room and a smaller dining area used for bigger parties or on busy nights.  Along the outer walls of the dining area there are several private booths (topped with seasonal decorations), with tables in the middle of the restaurant which can easily be adjoined for larger parties.

Menu: Appetizers include Bruschetta, Chicken Strips, Chicken Wings, White Cheddar Cheese Curds, Onion Rings, Donatelli’s Caprese, Cheesy Fries, Bread Sticks, Garlic Toast, Donatelli’s Haystack Fries (covered with cheese and bacon), Fried Ravioli, Hot Chips, Seasoned Fries, Meatball Sliders, Italian Fries and Italian Dunkers.

Salads at Donatellis include Antipasta, Chef Salad, Oriental Chicken, NLT Grilled Chicken Breast, Spinach Salad, Caesar, Blue Apple, Blue Burger, Grilled Veggie Salad, and Crispy Chicken Salad.

Soups offered are Chili and Minestrone.

Donatelli’s also has a number of Sandwiches, all are served with chips or you can upgrade to seasoned fries for $1.  Options include Chicken or Veal Parmigiana, Meatball, Italian Sausage, Hot Dago, Submarine Sandwich, Grilled Chicken, Beer Battered Fish, Turkey, Donatelli Reuben, Grilled Ham and Cheese, BLT, Turkey Club, Club Wrap, Steak or Chicken Caesar Wrap, BLT Chicken Wrap, and Grilled Salmon Caesar Wrap.

Donatelli’s also has a number of Specialty Burgers  including Plain Burger, Luigi Burger, Cheeseburger, Pizza Burger, Mama Mia Burger, Honey Mustard Ham Burger, Jack Burger, One Eyed Jack, Patty Melt, Chili Cheese Burger, Donatelli Burger, Philly Burger, Blue Bacon Burger and Red Portabella Burger

Pasta selections are numerous and include Spaghetti, Spaghetti Supreme, Rigatoni, Linguini with Marinara, Fettuccine Alfredo, Chicken or Veal Parmigiana, Baked Mostaccioli, Baked Manicotti, Baked Tortellini, Baked Ravioli, Baked Gnocchi, Baked Spaghetti, Baked Lasagna, Baked Rigatoni,  and Baked Linguini Carbonara, Tortellini Alfredo, Butternut Squash Ravioli with Asparagus, Spinach and Roasted Garlic Tortelloni, Smoked Mozzarella Ravioli, Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni, Stuffed Shells, Seafood Cannelloni, Linguini with Shrimp and Pesto, Cajun Chicken Alfredo, Fettuccine with Steak and Alfredo, Italian Jambalaya, Linguini with Chicken and Pesto, and Spaghetti Pie.

Donatelli’s also has a variety of Pizza Turnovers (stuffed pizza pockets) and Specialty Pizzas (deep-dish or thin crust) including Fresh Mozzarella and Roasted Tomato, Veggie Delight, Heartburn Deluxe, Super Heartburn Deluxe, Heart Stopper, Bacon Cheeseburger, Taco, Donatelli’s White Pizza, Margherita, BBQ Chicken, and the Upside Down Pizza.

**Gluten-Free Menu*** Items include Gluten Free versions of all of the following: Caprese, Italian Fries, Blue Apple Salad, Spinach Salad, Chicken and Pesto, Baked Cheese Ravioli, Stuffed Shells, Ravioli, Baked Rigatoni, and Gluten-Free Pizza.

Donatelli’s also has a selection of Old-Fashioned Ice Creams.  Other Desserts include Milk Shake, Malts, Ice Cream Soda, Turtle Sundae, Root Beer Float, Hot Fudge Sundae, Scrumptious Sundae, Old Fashioned Banana Split, Hot Fudge Cake, Turtle Fudge Cake, Black Forest Cake, Tiramisu, Berramisu, Chocolate Flourless Torte, and Death by Chocolate Peanut Butter.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-11 Sandwiches $7-12 Pasta $8-17 Desserts $3-7

What we ordered: Our party was dining on borrow time on the night of our visit, so we went straight to our entrees instead of ordering an appetizer as I normally would. Although I didn’t order Italian Fries on this visit, I highly recommend them.

There are so many awesome past choices at Donatelli’s and I have had the pleasure of sampling many of them over the years but on this night I ordered the Spaghetti with Meatballs.  I typically never order spaghetti at restaurants but Donatelli’s makes their spaghetti from scratch and it is perfect.  The noodles are fresh and cooked slightly al dente with a generous amount of the hearty house red sauce.

One of my companions had the Seafood Cannelloni.  This was delicious, but extremely rich.  There were three shells stuffed with a blend of lobster, scallops, and shrimp in a lobster sherry cream sauce.  It had several cheeses baked on top until just melted.  It was served with a slice of garlic toast that was great for dunking in the sauce.  Take the cannelloni shells out of this dish and you have yourself a wonderful seafood dip.

Another companion ordered the Cajun Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo, which was fettuccine mixed with several bite sized pieces of grilled Cajun chicken breast, and sauteed green and red bell peppers.

Another companion started with the Antipasto Salad followed by the Rigatoni.  The Antipasta salad looked wonderful with ham, pepperoni, mozzarella, cheddar, onions, mushrooms and black olives.  Tossed in Donatelli’s homemade Italian dressing.

The Rigatoni was a bowl of standard rigatoni topped with Donatelli’s red sauce.

One person in our party had the Steak Caesar Wrap.  This wrap had a substantial amount of beef in relation to lettuce.  Tasty and filling.

Service: Our visit was early evening on a Saturday night and it was already busy at Donatelli’s.  We were able to get a table big enough for the six of us with a few minutes of arriving and were greeted by our server shortly thereafter.  Drinks were refilled quickly and food was prepared reasonably fast for how busy it was. Six of us were in and out in about an hour.  Our server, as well as the staff in general,  seemed very friendly.

Overall Impression: A true institution in the White Bear Lake area, Donatelli’s has something that will appeal to everyone.  The menu is huge and the service is very friendly.

This was a review of Donatelli’s Restaurant originally published on Twin Cities Restaurant Blog
Donatelli's on Urbanspoon
Donatelli Bros Family Rstrnt Reviews in White Bear Lake

Mar 272011

Cuisine: Italian, Fish & Seafood, Steaks
Restaurant Features: Bar, Gluten Free Menu, Happy Hour (Bar only), On-Site Parking, Sunday Brunch
Locations: Burnsville & Roseville, MN
Addresses & Maps:
Burnsville– 14296 Plymouth Ave  Burnsville, MN 55337  952-892-7555
Roseville– 2050 North Snelling Ave Roseville, MN 55113  651-644-2808
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-12am  Sun 10am-10pm
Links: Chianti Grill Website * Chianti Grill on Facebook

Atmosphere: The new home of the Chianti Grill in Roseville is on Snelling Ave next to Har Mar Mall.  This newly constructed restaurant has been open for about two years now and is a much larger and more modern version of its former home.  The main dining room is large and seems even bigger with the tall ceilings.  The room is divided into sections of high backed booths, which help to keep noise levels under control and also offer some privacy for the guests.

The bar area is another large seating area, with seating at the bar as well as booths along the wall.  The bar is beautiful and runs the entire length of the room.

There is also a little lounge area in the bar near the entrance; a great place to have a cocktail and wait for a table when it gets busy on the weekends.

Menu: Appetizers at Chianti Grill include Spicy Tenderloin Tips, Calamari, Mozzarella Caprese, Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Seared Ahi Tuna, Crab Claws, Bruschetta, and Spinach Artichoke Dip.

Flatbread options include Prosciutto Arugula, Mediterranean, Margarita, and Grilled Chicken.

Pastas include Seafood Canneloni, Lasagna Bolognese, Mostaccioli, Manicotti, Tortellini (ham, mushrooms and peas), Spinach Ravioli, Cappellini al Fresco, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Cappellini al Gamberetti, Spicy Chicken Penne, Seafood Linguini, Chicken Cappellini, Fettuccine Alfredo, Gnocchi alla Crema di Campagna, and Shrimp and Lobster Linguini.

Seafood options include Grilled Tiger Prawns, Walleye Impanato, Bacon Wrapped Scallops, Salmon Taormina, and Crab Claws.  Steaks include 8 oz Filet Mignon, 16 oz Sirloin, 16 oz Ribeye, 14oz NY Strip.  Chicken and Veal options include Marsala, Sorrento, and Parmigiana.

House Specialties include Zuppa de Pesce, Lobster Ravioli, Grilled beef Skewers, Lobster Oscar Filet.

Gluten-Free items include Chicken Spicy Penne, Lobster & Shrimp Spaghetti, Chicken Spaghetti, Penne Chicken Alfredo, Spaghetti and Mostaccioli, as well as all of the steaks and many of the seafoods from the dinner menu.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-13  Flatbread $8-10  Pasta $14-20  Entrees $16-28 (items on lunch menu considerably less)

Happy Hour:

  • Served in the Lounge only

Sunday Brunch:

  • $12.95/Adults $6.95/ Kids 4-11  Free/ Kids 3 and under
  • 10am-2pm
  • a variety of homemade pastas, fresh fruit, pastries, salads, an omelet bar, traditional breakfast items and delicious desserts.

What we ordered: What do you do when two different appetizers sound really good and you can’t decide which to get? Order Both!! At least that’s what I do ;) First on that list is the Spinach Artichoke Dip.  This was a large portion of cheeses, artichoke, spinach and onion blended then baked in a ramekin.  It was served with a sliced, toasted baguette.  Delicious! The dip was very flavorful, partially because it had a lot of onions in it, which I thought was great.  You might not love it as much if you aren’t a fan of onions.

We also tried the calamari.  This was good, but nothing out of the ordinary.  The calamari was cooked just right so it was still tender but the breading wasn’t too crispy and was kind of boring in the flavor department.  It was served with marinara and also a  horseradish dip, which were both good and definitely helped spice up the flavor.

Then came the basket of bread with our meals.  We didn’t have any room for this at dinner so I brought it home and had it later.  It was very good and kind of dense.

Our meals also came with a house salad, I got mine with ranch.  I just love fresh buttermilk ranch dressing and this one was really good!

For my meal I ordered the Mostaccioli.  Although this is kind of an ordinary meal for me and I usually order pastas that are more adventurous, I was in the mood for red sauce.  I was too full to eat more than a few bites while we were still at the restaurant, but it was very good.  The noodles were tossed with a zesty red sauce, ground Italian sausage, chunks of mushrooms, sauteed onions, garlic and other spices.  It was topped with a ton of mozzarella then baked.  I also had it topped with freshly grated parmesan.  This was yummy (although I know I could easily make something similar at home) and hit the spot.  The leftovers were just as good the next day.

My companion wanted to have something with seafood and after much deliberation and suggestions from the server, ordered the Crab Ravioli, one of the daily specials.  This was a unique dish; there were about five raviolis stuffed with shredded crab meat.  The bell pepper cream sauce that it was served with was very sweet and contained pieces of the tri-colored peppers.  We both liked it but I admit I think I would like it better with a more savory sauce.

Service: We had good service at Chianti Grill.  We visited at an odd time (3:30pm) on a Saturday and had no problem getting a table without a reservation.  Our server was both friendly and also had a funny sense of humor.  She had several recommendations on the menu and did a good job timing our food so that everything was staggered.  Most of the time our drinks were refilled as soon as needed but there were a couple of times while we were eating that I waited for several minutes without anything to drink.

Overall Impression: I am glad I finally had the opportunity to try Chianti Grill.  I thought the food was decent, as was the service.  Items from the lunch menu are considerably less expensive, so if you want to save a few bucks, visit before 4pm.  Happy Hour offered in the Lounge only.

Chianti Grill on Urbanspoon

Feb 192011

*** Il Gatto has closed as of 12/17/11***

Cuisine: Italian
Restaurant Features: Bar
Location: Uptown Minneapolis, MN (Calhoun Square)
Address: 3001 Hennepin Avenue S., Minneapolis, MN 55408  612.822.1688
Hours: Daily 11am
Links: Il Gatto Website * Il Gatto Facebook Page * Google Map

Il Gatto ~ Uptown Minneapolis, MN

Il Gatto ~ Uptown Minneapolis, MN

Atmosphere: Il Gatto is located in Uptown at Calhoun Square (Hennepin & Lake) on the lower level.  The space is somewhat divided into two sections, the bar area and the dining room.  Both sections are long, with booths and tables in the dining room and extra seating in the bar area.

The bar can be seen from the entire space, with fun and contemporary display of liquor bottles lit up on the wall.  This is a good place to catch a drink during Happy Hour or while waiting for a table.

Menu: Appetizers include Pesce Spada (preserved swordfish), Pancetta, Uovo Fonduta (poached egg), Molluschi Arrostiti in Brodo (clams), White Oak Grilled Wings, Tartara Bistecca, Pulipo (octopus), Polpetta (meatball sliders), Gnocco Fritto Con Mortadella, Barbabietole Arrostite (roasted beets), Panzanella, Pere E Prosciutto (prosciutto with pears and gorgonzola), Indivia, and Fritto Misto.

Hand-Tossed Pizzas at Il Gatto are baked in the wood-burning brick oven and include Margherita, Melanzane (eggplant and mushrooms), Burrata (pesto and pine nuts), Pesce Spada (preserved swordfish), Funghi (artichoke and mushrooms), Peperonata (roasted peppers), Salsiccia (sausage, peppers, ricotta), Guanciale (pork, figs, goat cheese), Gamberetti (shrimp, pesto).
Il Gatto has a selection of pastas, each comes in two sizes including Bucatini All’Amatriciana, Trofie (pistacchio pesto with shrimp), Mint Fazzoletti (lamb), Bobolotti (shrimp, clams, crab, lobster), Linguini (crab), Pappardelle (rabbit), Pansoti (walnut sauce), and Cornmeal Maltagliati (chicken and mushrooms).
Price guide: Appetizers $7-16  Pizzas $11-15

Happy Hour:

Happy Hour is every day open to 6:00pm. Late Night Happy Hour is 10pm to 12amMonday – Thursday. We offer a tiered happy hour with $3, $5, & $7 food and drink items.

$3 Small Plates 3.00
french fries, house made mozzarella, radishes, & wood roasted olives
$5 Small Plates 5.00
fonduta, polpetta, & mortadella with ‘nduja
$7 Small Plates 7.00
wings, calamari, fire roasted clams, & steak tartar

Weekly Specials:
Sunday- Homemade Lasagna and Cheesy Bread $10
Monday-  $10 Bottle of wine (10 wines to choose from)
Tuesday- Homemade gnocchi & insalata mista  $12
Wednesday- Braised pork with celery root polenta and rapini $16
Thursday- Braised lamb shank $18

What we ordered: We started with a couple of cocktails; a Margarita and a Raspberry Cello.  The margarita was both tart, sweet and just strong enough.  The Raspberry Cello was a mix of vodka, club soda, sweet raspberries and syrup.  Both very good!

We started with this complimentary Italian Bread, served with olive oil and herbs.  Fresh and crusty!

We also ordered one of the Happy Hour appetizers, the Mozzarella.  This fresh house-made mozzarella was baked with basil until melted, served with two thick-cut slices of toast.  This was very good, it had the light flavor of fresh mozzarella so the basil really dressed it up.  The toast it was served with was also very good, it was dense and crunchy which went perfectly with the creamy melted mozzarella.

As usual, I had a hard time deciding what to order for my entree.  After thinking about the recommendations from our server and discussing with my companion, I ordered the Mint Fazzoletti pasta.  If you’re not familiar with fazzoletti pasta, it is also sometimes called handkerchief pasta because of the square, flat shape.  The pasta was covered with a tomato sauce consisting of tender, delicious bites of braised lamb and Italian Olives.  The sauce was not overpowering in flavor from the secondary ingredients, what stood out the most was the lamb.  It was topped with a sprinkling of fresh mint but it was very subtle.  We both liked this a lot.

My companion ordered the Burrata Pizza, which I also got to try.  This pizza was baked in the brick wood-burning oven, with a nice crispy crust.  Atop the crust was a generous layer of fresh basil pesto, garlic, pine nuts, slices of tomato and Calabrian mozzarella.  Excellent!

For dessert we shared the Tartuffo, a semi-fredo covered with chocolate malted milk.  This was heavenly! The malt flavor was subtle but really added a nice touch to the rich chocolate of the semi-fredo.  The dish was small but beautifully decorated with stylish designs of white  and dark chocolate.

Service: I had made a reservation earlier in the week for my Friday night happy hour visit.  Despite being caught in rush hour traffic and not having a phone on me to give a courtesy call, Il Gatto still had my table ready when I arrived 25 minutes late.  Our server was really good; he was genuine and very knowledgeable about the menu.  Our food seemed to be prepared in just the right amount of time, drinks refilled quickly.  Parking can be found in the pay ramp behind Calhoun Square.

Overall Impression: I really liked Il Gatto and glad to finally have tried it.  They have a really good Happy Hour and the other items on the menu are reasonably priced for the experience.  Service is excellent.
Il Gatto Uptown Italian on Urbanspoon

Feb 152011

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant. All opinions are my own.

Cuisine: American,  Dessert, Italian, Pasta, Steak, Chops
Restaurant Features: Bar, Banquet, Catering, Happy Hour, Kids Menu, On-Site Parking, Patio
Location: Apple Valley, MN
Address: 15435 Founders Lane Apple Valley, MN 55124  952-891-6569
Hours: Mon-Thurs 11a-9p   Fri-Sat  11a-10p   Sun 10a-9p
Links: Enjoy! Website * Enjoy on Facebook *  Google Map

Enjoy! ~ Apple Valley, MN

Atmosphere: Enjoy! is located in a very large, impressive  building about 1/2 mile south of Country Rd 42 off of Galaxie Dr. and Founders Ln.  The restaurant is divided into seven distinct areas, The Conservatory (pictured below), The Upper Dining Room, The Grotto, The Vintage Room, The Water’s Edge Patio, The Bar Patio, and The Lounge.  We ate in the lovely Conservatory which had a beautiful fireplace  complete with a large-tile mosaic painting.  One highlight of the room was the magnificent domed skylight.  In addition to having tables, this area also has high-backed booths which offer a sense of privacy.

The Upper Dining Room is another one of the many seating areas at Enjoy! that is perfect for groups, offering larger booths and tables that can accommodate many.

Enjoy! also has The Vintage Room available for Banquets and larger parties. The Lounge  is also a big, beautiful area and is also the place to go for a great Happy Hour.

Menu: Enjoy! just unveiled their new menus within the past few weeks with a great selection of favorites as well as many new items.  The Lunch Menu is served Mon-Sat 11am-3pm and includes Bruschetta, Calamari, Mozzarella and Artichoke Bake, Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms and Crab Cakes for Appetizers.

In addition to many of the pastas, salads, seafoods and meats that are offered at dinner, Enjoy! has a nice selection of Specialty Sandwiches on the Lunch Menu: Prime Rib Dip, Chicken Cashew, BLT, Ultimate Grilled Cheese (cheddar, fontina and bacon), Turkey Club, Chicken Bacon Avocado Wrap, Pulled Pork, Grilled Chicken, Reuben, Rachel, Beer Battered Cod, and Open Faced Turkey.  Burgers are also offered at lunch; Juicy Lucy, Avocado Bacon, Crispy Cheddar, Black and Blue or Build Your Own.

The Dinner Menu is served after 3pm and has starters such as Bruschetta, Calamari, Mozzarella and Artichoke Bake, Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Seared Scallops, Crab Cakes, Tenderloin Tips, and the Warm Cheese Sampler.

Grilled Flatbread options include Pesto Chicken, Mushroom and Garden (olive, artichoke, tomato, garlic).

Enjoy! also offers salads including the Caesar, Iceberg Wedge, Strawberry Spinach Salad, Chopped, Avocado and Crab, Tenderloin, and the Enjoy! Salad (pear, gorgonzola, walnuts).  Soups offered are French Onion, Tomato Basil and Lobster Chowder.

Classics are the Chicken Pot Pie, Grilled Chicken Sandwich or Build-Your-Own-Burger.

Pasta dishes at Enjoy! include Cannelloni, Fettuccine Alfredo, Spicy Sausage Penne, Short Rib Lasagna, Shrimp Angel Hair, Seafood Fettuccine, Lobster Ravioli, and Duck Risotto.

Meat Entrees offered are the Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Piccata, Oven Roasted Chicken, Flat iron Steak, Sirloin, Filet Mignon,  New York Strip (14oz),  Ribeye (16oz), Veal Marsala, Lamb Chops, Pork Chops and Prime Rib.

Seafood and Fish selections at Enjoy! are the Tilapia, Mahi Mahi, Pecan Crusted Walleye, Crab and Brie Stuffed Salmon, Halibut, Sea Bass, Seared Scallops, and Lobster Tail.

Side dishes include Fingerling Potatoes, Parmesan Leek Hash Browns, Mashed Potatoes, Whipped Sweet Potatoes, House Cut Fries, Boursin or Bleu Cheese Bubble Bread, Fettuccine Alfredo, Herb Risotto, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Green Beans, and Broccolini.

Desserts at Enjoy! are heavenly.  Options include Maple Creme Brulee, Chocolate Molten Lava Cake, Cheesecake, Carrot Cake, Chocolate Bread Pudding, Key Lime Pie, Banana Cream Pie, Upside Down Walnut Crusted Apple Pie, Hot Fudge Sundae and Italian Gelato or Sorbet.  There are also a number of dessert coffees, drinks, cordials and ports.

Kids Menu items include Buttered Noodles, Spaghetti, Penne & Cheese, Chicken Fingers, Grilled Cheese, Mini Burgers, Grilled Chicken, and Beef Tenderloin.  Served with drink and ice cream sundae.

Price guide: Appetizers $7-12  Sandwiches $  Pastas $13-23  Entrees$ 17-29 Seafood $17-29  Desserts $4-7 Kids Menu $5-10

Happy Hour:

  • Sunday-Thursday 3pm-Close  Friday 3-6:30pm
  • Specials available in the Lounge Only
  • $3- Opulent martinis, Jameson, Beefeater, Captain Morgan, Michelob Golden, Miller Lite, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, Sam Adams, Summit Epa,
  • $4-Canyon Road Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, white zinfandel, Bass Ale, Amstel Light, Blue Moon, Ranger Pale Ale
  • $5- Enjoy! Wines- Chardonnay, Cabernet and Syrah, Guinness and Stella Artois
  • $6  Any signature martini or cocktail, French Onion Soup, Emjoy! Salad, Spinach Salad, Bruschetta, Chicken Tenders, Garden Flatbread
  • $7 Lobster Chowder, Mozzarella and Artichoke Bake, Calamari, Bubble Bread, Pesto Chicken Flatbread
  • $8- Fish & Chips, Crab Cakes, Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms, Seared Scallops, Garden Shrimp Flatbread
  • $9 – Tenderloin Tips, Shrimp Cocktail, Mushroom Flatbread, Black & Blue Flatbread, Warm Cheese Sampler

Sunday Brunch:

  • 10am-3pm
  • Adults/ $21.95   Kids 3-11/ $11.95
  • Assorted Muffins and Pastries, Yogurt Parfait Bar, Fresh Fruits, Antipasti, Shrimp Cocktail, Enjoy! Salad, SunDried Tomato Pesto Salad, Scrambled Eggs, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Sausage, Parmesan Leek Hash Brown Potatoes, Sausage Penne, Chicken Rigatoni, Tilapia, Eggs and Omeletes (cooked to order), French Toast, Belgian Waffle, Carved Beef, and Chocolate Fountain.
  • Includes Orange Juice, Coffee, Champagne or Mimosa.

What we ordered: We started with a couple of beverages, I had the House Pinot Noir and my companion had the Raspberry Mint Long Island.  Oh, was this yummy! It was sweet and fruity yet still packed quite a punch.  You’ll feel real good after a couple of these!

We also got this complimentary basket of different breads, French, Sourdough, Pumpernickel, and a Flatbread Cracker.  All were very good, it was nice to have a variety to choose from.

We tried the Calamari, which was extremely tender. The strips were thick and cooked perfectly without any hint of chewiness.  The outside wasn’t as crispy as I like it but since that would mean overcooking it, I’ll take it tender over chewy any day!  It was served with two dips, the spicy marinara and a lemon herb aoili.  Both were excellent!

We also got the Tenderloin Tips, a great choice if you want mouth-watering, tender beef.  These bite-sized pieces were pan-seared in a tangy bourbon sauce, topped with green onion and tomato and served with a  creamy horseradish sauce for dipping. These were great!

My companion also tried the Lobster Chowder.  This soup was extremely enjoyable; the sweet and tender bites of lobster were the star of this dish with the corn, potato, and leeks cooked al dente to create a nice contrast in texture to the creamy broth.

There were so many temptations on the menu that when I saw the special Tasting Menu featuring a sampling of regular menu offerings, I knew it was the perfect choice for me.  The first course had a sample of the Enjoy! Salad, Lobster Chowder and Bruschetta.  I loved every bite of the Lobster Chowder, as described previously.  The Enjoy! Salad was also very good; a mix of greens with gorgonzola cheese, slices of pear, candied walnuts and tossed in a citrus vinaigrette.  One of my favorite salads! The Bruschetta was also delightful, a combo of fresh tomato with basil served over grilled french bread then drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  Reminds me of summer!

The main course included a sampling of Halibut, Canneloni and Chicken Picatta.  The Halibut was a thick sampling of the filet, seared to an appetizing golden brown and served over a creamy mustard sauce with asparagus tips.  The Canneloni is one of the signature dishes at Enjoy!, a tube of pasta stuffed with ground beef, pork, tomatoes, ricotta then topped with mozzarella and served on a bed of spicy marinara.  This was wonderful, a real classic. The ground meats were very flavorful but one of my favorite aspects of the dish was the combination of red and white sauces.  The third item of this sampler  and my favorite of the three was the Chicken Picatta.  This decent-sized pounded chicken breast was served over a creamy herbed risotto and topped with a light and creamy lemon butter caper sauce.  This was so delicious!  The lemon was apparent without being overpowering and the capers provided just a hint of saltiness.

The dessert course also had three delicious samples: the Chocolate Bread Pudding, Maple Creme Brulee and Espresso Cheesecake.  I started with the Chocolate Bread Pudding.  This had a good taste but the texture of it was slightly hard so I moved on to the creamy creme brulee.  I loved it!  It was very creamy but didn’t have the eggy texture that custard often gets.  It had a candied sugar crust on top that gave just a hint of crunch to contrast the creaminess.  The third dessert sample was the Cheesecake, a bite of heaven supported by a crunchy oreo cookie crust then topped with an espresso glaze. Mmmmm

After much deliberation my companion ordered the Sea Bass for an entree.  Oh My was this delectable!  The filet itself was perfectly cooked, light and flaky, served over a bed of delicious veggies.  The roasted brussel sprouts, swiss chard and crispy bacon bites were tossed in a creamy citrus butter sauce; every bite was wonderful.

We shared this Coffee with Bailey’s for an after-dinner drink while enjoying our desserts

My companion also ordered the Key Lime Pie, which was exceptional.  It was creamy and tart yet sweet.  Scrumptious!

Service: I had made a reservation and despite being late, my table was waiting for me when I got there.  The hostess checked our coats right away and shortly after we were seated we were greeted by our server.  We took our time looking over the menu however the server really helped by highlighting the special features and making other recommendations.  The pacing of the food was just right, giving us time to finish each course before the next arrived.  Overall I was very pleased with the service, it certainly made the experience even more enjoyable.

Overall Impression: I was very impressed with Enjoy! and can honestly say it is one of the best (new-to-me) restaurants I have tried in many months.  The facilities are gorgeous and the perfect place to have a group dinner or event.  The new dinner menu is impressive, as are the Chef’s Special Features; we enjoyed everything we tried.  I have not yet eaten at Enjoy! for lunch but all of the sandwiches sounded wonderful and the best part about lunch is that it is guaranteed 45 minutes or less or it is free!  I look forward to going back once the weather warms up so I can enjoy the patio too!
Enjoy! on Urbanspoon

Jan 082011

Cuisine: American, Deli, Italian, Pizza
Restaurant Features: Bar, Market, On-Site Parking
Location: Willernie, MN (Mahtomedi)
Address: 460 Stillwater Road Willernie, MN 55090  (651) 653-4733
Hours: Mon-Thurs  11am-9pm   Fri-Sat 11-am-10pm  Sun 11am-8pm

Links: Roma Website * Roma Facebook Page *  Google Map

Atmosphere: Roma is located in downtown Willernie in a space that used to occupy a laundromat.  They did a spectacular job with their remodeling, as the new space is a very fresh and cute.  A majority of the space is used by the dining room, which has a mix of both tables and booths.  There is also a bar area that offers seating at the bar as well as at a handful of bistro tables.  There are many windows, giving plenty of beautiful natural light during the day.  I sat at a booth by the window and discovered that it can also be cool and drafty during winter months.  I can only assume that the lights are dim at night to offer more of a romantic and relaxing atmosphere.

Roma also has a “Roman Market” which offers Premium Meats and European Deli items.

Menu: Appetizers include Antipasto Classico (meat & cheese tray), Cheese & Fruit Plate, Spinach Artichoke Dip, Spirito (Flatbread and three dips/spreads), Mussels ala Romana, Caprese, Italian Wings, Hummus, Bruschetta, Gelee (fruits and cheeses on crustini bread), Fonduta, and Italian Fries.

Salad options are the Gorgonzola, Greek, Caesar, Bistecca (steak with caramelized onions), Chicken with Apple and Walnuts, Rucola (arugula, bacon, egg, tomato), and Spinach Salad.

Sandwiches at Roma are served with kettle chips and include Greek Gyro, Italian Sub, Reuben, Rachel, French Dip, Turkey Melt, Hot Dago, Italian Beef, and Trojan Tenderloin.  Flatbread wraps include Turkey, Chicken Caesar, Garlic Steak, Italian Combo, Diavlo Shrimp and Stromboli.  Additional sandwiches served on the lunch menu include Porketta, BBQ Meatloaf, Grinder, Sausalito Turkey, Meatball Hoagie, Pastrami, Walleye, Margherita, and the Gladiator Melt (roast beef and cheddar).

Roma’s Pasta menu consists of Spaghetti, Gnocchi Bolognese, Lasagna Classico, Lasagna Blanco, Fettuccine Alfredo, Sausage Arabiatta, Chicken and Shrimp Linguini, and Squash Ravioli.  Additional Pastas and Entrees served at dinner include Lobster Canneloni, Shrimp Pomodoro, Gorgonzola Filet, Sacchetti (pasta filled with truffle and ricotta in fontina cream sauce), Scallops Puttanesca, Chicken Saltimbocca, and Walleye in a Remoulade Sauce.

Roma has quickly become known for its wood-fired pizzas (10″& 14″) with options such as the Cheese, Margherita, Succo (cinnamon cream, squash, gorgonzola and caramelized onions with maple syrup), Garden, Balsalmico, Vesuvio (pepperoni, sausage, ham, mushroom, onion and peppers), Pesto Shrimp, Greek Gyro, Chicken Alfredo or Build-Your-Own.

Price guide: Appetizers $4-12  Salads $8-12 Sandwiches $8-12   Pastas/Entrees $12-22  Specialty Pizzas 10″ $9+   14″ $14

Happy Hour:

  • Daily 3-5pm
  • 2-for-1 Tap & Bottled Beer, Mixed Drinks and Wine-by-the-Glass
  • Cash Bar Only

What we ordered: The Italian Wings sounded good so we started with an order of those.  The wings were loosely coated with Italian bread crumbs and then fried to a golden brown. The breading was only slightly crispy  and was flaking off the wings in the usual way of bread crumbs, but they tasted delicious nonetheless! They were served with both bleu cheese and marinara.

Our server highly recommended the Spinach Artichoke Dip so we also had an order of that.  It took some time to arrive because the flatbread was made to order, but we both liked it quite a bit.  The flatbread was baked with parmesan cheese until the perfect texture of soft and crispy.  The dip was very cream-cheese dominant with subtle pieces of artichoke and spinach blended in.  We liked it but both agreed we prefer artichoke dip with a blend of cheeses and seasonings.

There was a very nice selection of sandwiches on the lunch menu and after asking for a recommendation, I ordered the Gladiator Melt.  This sandwich was very good! The thinly-sliced roast beef was very tender and flavorful and had the cheddar cheese melted right into the layers.  It was served on a soft yet slightly crusty ciabatta bread with a wine vinaigrette and aoili sauce.  The textures and flavors of this sandwich went really well together.  It was served with seasoned kettle chips and red grapes.

The Porketta was another recommendation of the server’s that my companion decided to try. I had been really enjoying my Gladiator Melt but then I tried a bite of the Porketta and I forgot all about the sandwich i ordered.  This was one of the best new sandwiches I have tried in quite some time!  The base of the sandwich was moist, tender pulled pork flavored with Italian seasonings then topped with melted pepperjack and sauteed peppers and onions.  Seriously awesome, can’t figure out why this sandwich is not included on the dinner menu!?

Service: Our visit was mid-afternoon on a weekday so we had no problem getting a parking spot and we had our pick of tables as well.  We were promptly greeted by our friendly server, who seemed to be the only person working in front.  She made some great recommendations from the menu and brought us drinks and refills as needed.  The timing of the food wasn’t the best; it took nearly 20 minutes for our appetizers since they were both made-to-order and even though we ordered our sandwiches later than we ordered the apps, our sandwiches came out less than five minutes after the apps.  That is kind of a pet-peeve of mine but I didn’t sweat it since we were practically the only people in the restaurant.

Overall Impression: This is a lovely little gem in Willernie, near Mahtomedi.  The sandwiches are excellent and the pastas and pizzas are rumored to be pretty awesome as well.  The prices seemed very reasonable for the amount of food you get.  Can’t wait to go back and try dinner very soon!  One thing I think is great about Roma is that they always have some kind of printable coupon on their website.  The current coupon for January 2011 is for Buy-One-Get-One Half Off .  Now print yourselves a coupon, try Roma and let me know what you think!

Roma Restaurant and Roman Market on Urbanspoon

Dec 282010

Disclosure: I was invited out to do this review and my meal was provided by the restaurant.

Have you been down to Mystic Lake Casino recently?  Have you tried their Buffet? The menu at the Buffet changes every couple of months with seasonal items, so it is always fun to try the plethora of food items no matter what time of year you visit.

Today I will highlight the Winter “Holiday” Around-the-World Buffet, which runs through December and January.  Mystic Lake is offering a special Buy-One-Get-One-Free Buffet Dinner throughout the month of January, get the printable coupon here on their website.

Cuisine: American, European, and Pacific
Restaurant Features: All-You-Can-Eat, Hotel
Location: Prior Lake, MN
Address: 2400 Mystic Lake Blvd., Prior Lake, MN, 55372 (Mystic Lake Casino)

  • Mon – Fri Lunch:  11:30am – 2:30pm $9.95
  • Saturday & Sunday Brunch:  10am – 2:30pm $13.95
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday Dinner:   4:30pm – 11:00pm $12.95
  • Wednesday  Seafood Night:  4:30pm – 11:00pm  $22.95
  • Saturday & Sunday  Dinner:  4:30pm – 11:00pm $16.95

Links: Buffet at Mystic Lake Website * Mystic Lake Facebook Page * Google Map

Atmosphere: The Buffet at Mystic Lake Casino is an International-Themed Buffet with three main stations: European, American and Pacific.  Each station is host to a variety of holiday foods found in that particular region of the world.  There are also two salad bars and a dessert station.

For the holiday season the Buffet is festively decorated with trees and lights but also displays these beautiful, elaborate Gingerbread creations by Marshall Rosenthal.

Menu: Salad Bar items include Mixed Greens, bean Sprouts, Mushrooms, Green peppers, Garbanzo beans, Broccoli, Shredded Carrots, Garden Peas, Julienne Red Peppers, Black Olives, Radish, Cucumber, Onion, Tomato Wedges, Chopped Eggs, Bleu Cheese Crumbles, Cheddar Cheese, Parmesan Cheese, and Sliced Beets.  Dressing include Caesar, Italian, Bleu Cheese, French, Ranch, 1000 Island and Parmesan Peppercorn.  Soups include Chicken Wild Rice, Asian Soup and a Soup of the Day

Other Salad Bar Items include Ham salad, Tropical Fruit Salad, Smoked Salmon, Pickled Herring, Green Olives, Grilled Vegetables, Baby Corn, Roasted Mushrooms, Cherry Peppers, Pepperjack, Cheddar, Swiss, Honeydew, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Oranges, Pears, Peaches, Strawberries, Cottage Cheese, and Yogurt.

Items found at the American Holiday Station include Waffle Fries, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Beef Enchiladas, Stuffed Peppers in Tomato sauce, Alaskan Cod with Mushroom Dill Sauce, Acorn Squash with Apple Bacon Crumble, Rotisserie Chicken, Chicken with Banana Mango Chutney, Macaroni and Cheese, Broasted Chicken, Smoky Cowboy Beans, Vegetable Medley, Roast Beef (lunch), Prime Rib (dinner), Mashed Potatoes, Oven Roasted Turkey, Sage Dressing, Corn Niblets and Blackened Atlantic Salmon.

Items found at the European Holiday Station include Pork Saltimbocca with Fresh Sage and Brown Sauce, Ziti with Sundried Tomato and Pancetta in Basil Cream Sauce, French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions, Potatoes Au Gratin, Mahi Mahi, Beef Stroganoff, Tomato Provencale, Buttered Egg Noodles, Garlic Cheese Bread, Assorted Hearth Baked Pizzas.

Items found at the Pacific Holiday Station include Cream Cheese Wontons, Sesame Sedd Balls, Pork Egg Rolls, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Vegetable Lo mein, Chow Mein with Pork, Chow Mein Noodles, Dan Dan Noodles with Bok Choy, Mongolian Meatballs, Chinese Spare Ribs, Egg Fu Yung, Honey Seared Pork with Peppers, Steamed Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, and Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.

Dessert Station Items include Sugar-Free Carrot Cake, Sugar-Free Cheese Cake, Sugar-Free jello, Apple Spice Cake, Caramel Custard, Ice Cream Sundae Bar, and many more.

What we ordered: We first started at the Pacific Station where we tried a little bit of everything.  The Mongolian Meatballs were a spicy-sweet bite of meaty awesomeness, the Chinese Spare Ribs were very sweet and tender, the Dan Dan noodles were packed with flavor, and the sweet and sour chicken, fried rice, lo mein, eggrolls and cream cheese wontons were also very tasty.  My favorite item from the Pacific Station was the Grouper in Black Bean Sauce.  Yum!

Our next stop was the European Station where everything looked so good we tried it all!  The French Peas with Mushrooms and Pearl Onions was very tasty, as was the Tomato Provencale, which was stuffed with Parmesan Cheese and Italian Seasonings then baked.  The Mahi Mahi was decent and the Pork Saltimbocca was full of flavor from the sauce it was cooked in and the prosciutto baked on top.  The Garlic Cheese Bread was full of buttery-garlic goodness with bubbly baked cheese on top.  Delish! Our second plate from the European Station included the rich, meaty Beef Stroganoff, Ziti in Sun-Dried Tomato Basil Cream Sauce, Buffalo Chicken Pizza and the Stuffed Pizza.  Everything was very good.

We made a couple of trips to the American Station where we tried everything that was offered. I made a traditional “Thanksgiving” plate with Roasted Turkey, Rotisserie Chicken, Sage Dressing, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Potatoes. Everything was excellent, I must have eaten it all before I took a photo… sorry!
Feast your eyes on this gorgeous cut of Prime Rib from the American Station. Incredibly tender,  juicy and fairly lean.  I could eat at the Buffet for Prime Rib alone!

Other items we tried at the American Station were the Macaroni and Cheese which was very creamy and cheesy but not at all clumpy like mac and cheese can get sometimes.  The Smoky Cowboy Beans were as good as any I have had, and the Alaskan Cod may have been my favorite fish that I tried at the Mystic Lake Buffet, the sauce was flavorful and the fish was not at all fishy.  The Blackened Salmon was also good.

I didn’t have much room for dessert but wanted to see what the Sugar-Free Desserts were all about.  So glad I tried both the Carrot Cake and the Cheesecake because both were delicious, even sugar-free!

I tried one last dessert before I was too full too move, the Caramel Custard.  I love custard and thought this was delicious! It was smooth, creamy and the caramel was just the right touch without being too rich.

Service: We were able to get a table right away and were greeted almost immediately by our server who quickly took our drink order and kept the refills coming all night.  For a Buffet, I thought Mystic Lake did a great job with service.  The Manager stopped to greet us, as he did with nearly every other table of guests, to make sure the food was enjoyed by all.

Overall Impression: The Buffet at Mystic Lake is the perfect place to go if you want a HUGE selection of All-You-Can Eat International foods at a very reasonable price.  I highly recommend you take advantage of the January BOGO Buffet coupon offer! Print your coupon now. Even better would be to have lunch or dinner at the Buffet, then stay the night at Mystic Lake Hotel and try Il Premio Italian Steakhouse the following Night!
Buffet on Urbanspoon