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

El Burrito Mercado & Restaurante ~ St Paul, MN

 Counter-Service, Fish & Seafood, Live Music, Market, Mexican, On-Site Parking, St Paul  Comments Off on El Burrito Mercado & Restaurante ~ St Paul, MN
Mar 062010

Cuisine: Authentic Mexican, Fish & Seafood
Restaurant Features: Counter Service, Live Music, Market, On Site Parking,
Location: St Paul, MN (District del Sol)
Address: 175 Cesar Chavez St. St. Paul, MN 55107   651-227-2192

Mercado Hours: Mon-Sat 7a-9p    Sun 7a-8p
Links: El Burrito Website * El Burrito Mercado on FacebookGoogle Map

Atmosphere: El Burrito is not only located within the heart of St Paul’s Westside “District del Sol”, but is arguably the “Heart” itself.  El Burrito Mercado is the place to go for anything you would need for preparing Mexican Cuisine and located within is also a wonderful little restaurant.

The Express Restaurant is open all day and offers counter service.  This is where you must order breakfast and lunch.

There are a couple of tables in the seating areas near the service line, if you’d like to take in the action of the Mercado around you, otherwise there is a great dining room tucked around the corner to the back.  The room is decorated more like a traditional Mexican restaurant with tiled floors, earth-colored walls and royal blue accents.  The walls are hung with Mexican artwork.  The Restaurant offers table service at dinner only.

There is a self-service bakery counter in the middle of the Mercado, near the restaurant.

El Burrito Mercado has just about anything you would find in a market in Mexico.  They have a selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, a variety of Mexican cheeses, creams, chorizo, a big selection of meats and seafood, corn and flour tortillas, and a large selection of imported non-perishable groceries.  I discovered you can even buy mango flavored lollipops that are coated in chili! (However after trying one, I do NOT recommend)

Express Menu: Items are served with Mexican or Cilantro Rice, Frijoles Ranchera, Fried Pinto Beans or Fried Black Beans.  Includes Burrito Original (filled with choice of meat, beans, rice and cheese), Burrito Ahogado (burrito smothered in sauce and cheese then baked), Burro Gigante (2 ft burrito!), Tamal en Hoja Platano, Tamales, Milanesa (thin chicken or steak breaded and fried), Torta Minnesota, Torta Mexico, Quesadilla, Tacos, Nachos Supremos.

Meat choices include Puerco en Verde, Barbacoa (shredded beef), Birria (shredded beef in spice and chile), Carnitas (shredded pork), Pollo Mexicano, Pechuga de Pollo, Carne Asada (marinated steak), and Cecina (thin, cured steak).

Restaurant Dinner Menu: Appetizers include Chips & Salsa, Chipotle Chicken Wings, Chicken Flautas, Quesadilla, Fiesta Chicharron, Chips with Guacamole and Pico de Gallo, Molletas (bread with beans and cheese), and Queso Fundidio (melted Mexican cheeses).

Salads include Nopalitos (sliced cactus, onion, tomato, cilantro and jalapeno vinaigrette), Verde con Cilantro Aderezo (romaine with cilantro vinaigrette), Chicaharron (pork rinds on top), and Caesar Salad.

Entree Specials that are made with Masa (corn) include Gorditas (small thick tortilla made with corn dough), Quesadillas made with Corn dough (and choice of meat), Huarache (corn dough fried and topped with beans and choice of meat) and Sopes (corn dough fried and topped with meat).

Beef Entrees include Carne a la Tampiquena, Carne Asada, Molcajete de Carnes Mixtas (steak, chicken, pork, carnitas, cactus, chorizo), Bistec Mexicano, Puntas de Bistec, Lomo Salteado, and Sizzling Fajitas.

Pork Entrees include Chuleta de Puerco Relleno, Carnitas en Comal, and Cochnito Pibil (slow roasted pork served in a banana leaf).

Chicken Entrees include Enchiladas, Chicken Mole, Pechuga de Pollo en Crema Poblana and Fajitas Tropical en Molcajete.

Vegetarian Entrees include Roasted Chili Poblano, Beans & Cheese Tamales and Vegetable Fajitas.

Fish & Seafood Entrees include Pescado en Hoja Platano (tilapia served in plantain leaf), Pescado Empanizado, Tilapia Veracruzana, Camarones a la Diabla (shrimp in spicy sauce), Camarones al Mojo de Ajo (shrimp in garlic butter), Camarones a la Mexicana, Camarones Envuelto en Tocino Relleno de Queso y Chipotle (shrimp filled with cheese and wrapped with bacon), Tacos de Camron y Queso, Coctel de Camaron, Ceviche de Camaron (lime cured shrimp mixed with pico de gallo), and Ceviche de Aquachile.

All items on express menu can also be ordered from Dinner Menu.

Dessert items at El Burrito include Tres Leches Cake, Mango Cheesecake, Chili Powder and Chocolate Flourless Cake, Flan, Homemade Pound Cake with Fresh Strawberries, Gelatina, and Chocolate Cinnamon Cheesecake.

Price guide: Appetizers $5-7 Salads $4-5  Masa $7  Meat Entrees $8-10  Seafood & Fish $11  Desserts $4-5  Express Restaurant Entrees $7
What we ordered: I was really at a loss of how to order, so I went with the Barbacoa Plate with a side of corn tortillas(3).  I was given a very generous heaping pile of tender, shredded beef which I wanted to make tacos with.  There was enough to make 5 or 6 tacos! The plate comes standard with lettuce and tomato but I also asked for cilantro and onions, and shredded cheese.  The meat was really good and the rice and beans were decent (good but nothing too special, kind of on the boring-side).  The corn tortillas were small, hot and fresh.  I liked that they has a salsa bar and tried both green and red.  I liked both but the red just wasn’t spicy enough for me (I like HOT), the green was slightly more spicy.

My companion ordered a Quesadilla con Carnitas, which came with a generous serving of beans and rice.  The Quesadilla was made with a couple of large flour tortillas, grilled to a bubbly, golden brown and filled with melted Mexican cheeses and tender shredded pork.  Lettuce and chopped tomatoes were served on top.

Service: The line at the restaurant was fairly long at lunch time, but moved very quickly.  I basically told them what I wanted and they prepared my order in front of me within minutes.  Depending on what you order, some foods like quesadillas and enchiladas take a little longer to prepare.  There was a self-service salsa bar and drink station at the end of the line.  When we finished our meals we weren’t sure if we were supposed to bus our own trays or not but they did have a couple of servers who came and bussed our table for us.  The restaurant offers table-service only at dinner.
Overall Impression: I thought the food was pretty good and reasonably priced but the atmosphere was what made the visit memorable.  It is enjoyable to browse around the market and purchase items that you would not find at your local Cub or Rainbow stores.  El Burrito is Mexican-Cooking Heaven!! I look forward to warmer seasons and the Corn Roast they have outside El Burrito on the weekends. I also want to go back to the Restaurant for dinner and order off the menu! Live Music on weekend evenings!
El Burrito Mercado on Urbanspoon

Feb 262009

Cuisine: Deli, Italian, Pizza, Pasta
Restaurant Features: Cafe-Style, On-Site Parking, Market

Location: St Paul, MN (Downtown)
Address: 211 Seventh St W St Paul, MN 55102  (651) 222-3476

Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm
Links: Google Map * Cossetta’s Facebook Page

Atmosphere: Cossetta’s is a cafe-style restaurant, with two main serving areas that work their way toward the middle: The Pizza/Dessert counter on the far right and the Sandwiches/Salads/Hot Entree counter to the far left near the Italian Market. Order what you would like at designated counter (some items such as the lasagna, mostacolli and pizza are premade, but other items such as salads, sandwiches, veal parmesgiana, etc are made to order), then pay for everything at one of the two cashiers in the middle. Beverages are purchased at the cashier.


Cossetta’s is a two-story restaurant, with a majority of the seating on the upper level.  Since the middle of the restaurant is open the full two stories to accommodate the stairway, many of the tables in the upper level wrap around a railing overlooking the action below.  There is also a dining room upstairs in the back that has several tables extremely close together.  When it gets crowded it can be hard to maneuver in and out.


Not pictured is the Cossetta Market, which sells imported food products from Italy, as well as fresh deli items (salads, sausage, sauce,etc).

Menu: Cossettas has a selection of made-to-order garden salads, such as the famous Cossetta Salad, Italian Garden Salad, or Italian Gorgonzola. There are also a handful of pasta salads like the Antipasto Salad or the Tortellini with Prosciutto and Gorgonzola.

Cossettas also has several sandwiches.  The Hero (choice of meat) and the Italian Hero are served cold with choice of fixings, while the following are all served hot: Cossetta Sandwich, Hot Peppers and Sausage, Veal Parmegiana, and Italian Meatball.

Entrees include Mostacolli with Ricotta, Chicken Marsala, Sausage and Peppers, Lasagna, Veal Parmesan, and Chicken Cacciatore.  Every month there is also a Featured Special; February’s special is Manicotti Panna Marzano.

Pizza can be bought by the slice or you can order a whole pizza.  There are always hot, fresh slices of Cheese, Pepperoni, and Sausage, as well as a Daily Special.  One 16″ is divided into six slices.

Desserts include Spumoni, Gelato, Cannoli and Tiramisu.

*All beverages are canned or bottled.

Price guide: Salads $ 4-8  Sandwiches $ 7-8 Entrees $5-11 Pizza by Slice $3.50-4
What I ordered: I shared this gigantic piece of pizza with my companion.  The slice was so big it hardly fit on the standard cardboard plate it came on!  The pizza at Cossetta’s is New York Style, with a chewy, hand-tossed crust and just the right amount of sauce.  The mozzarella that they use is fresh and plentiful, and there were also plenty of slices of pepperoni which made it kind of greasy.  Cossetta’s pizza is my favorite local pizza thus far.


My companion and I also each got the veal parmegiana entree, which comes with mostacolli and garlic toast.  I ordered mine with the sauce on the side to maintain the crispiness of the veal for as long as possible.  The veal is sliced about 1/4″, making it tender yet crispy on the outside.  The portion size was on the small side but worth every penny.  The mostacolli was tossed lightly with ricotta and comes loaded with red sauce ( I added the sauce myself from the side they gave me and saved the rest for my veal).  The mostacolli was firm and delicious with the sauce.  The garlic toast was huge! It had a fair amount of garlic butter and was slightly salty but packed with flavor.  It was also just the right amount of crispy on the outside and still soft on the inside- I especially loved it dipped in sauce.


Service: My visit was late on a Saturday afternoon, just 3 hours or so before a Wild Hockey game.  We were fortunate enough to get to Cossetta’s before it started to get packed, which meant a prime spot in the Cossetta’s Parking Lot (for customers only, no event parking!) and reasonable food lines.  Within a half hour or so after we arrived, it really started to fill up in the restaurant and the lines were getting long.  As far as the actual service itself, the cafe-style servers were friendly and accommodating. I have eaten at Cossetta’s countless times and everything is consistently good.
Overall Impression: Delicious Italian food served reasonably fast and at affordable prices.  Great place to have a giant slice of NY Style pizza (my favorite in fact ;) Can be very busy on weekend evenings and prior to events at the Xcel Energy Center.  Free parking in own lot.
Cosetta's Italian Market & Pizzeria on Urbanspoon