MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It looks like an Italian Alps Chalet; a small gingerbread house nestled right in downtown Forest Lake.
It is called Daniela’s, and the insides are as good as the outside.
“This is wonderland for the kids and young at heart,” owner Daniela Meneghetti said. “When you need something to pick you up, this is where you stop.”
She has filled her shop to the tip of the roof with decadent goodies.
“I sell various types of chocolate,” Meneghetti said.
That is putting it mildly. Everywhere you turn is another kind of chocolate from a different country. But this time of year, the hot ticket is the hot cocoa.
“It’s different, richer tasting and no one else ever experiences it in this area. I make it in a special machine from Italy. I had to bring it in because I wanted to bring the Italian chocolate to Minnesota,” she said. “In order to do this, you have to have a double boiler. The chocolate, because it’s thicker, has to keep stirring. You have to try it.”
The hot cocoa is as thick as a milkshake. And once topped with whipped cream, it is the perfect treat for a cold Minnesota day.
Meneghetti grew up in northern Italy, right by the Alps, so this is their version of hot cocoa.
“I was very surprised when I came here to learn that the hot chocolate was very light and milky,” she said. “I said, ‘Well, they don’t know what hot chocolate is like.'”
Even Forest Lake’s mayor is a fan.
“The consistency and the richness, I can’t fathom how she gets it so rich and delicious,” Mayor Stev Stegner. “It’s served piping hot, so you have to drink it slowly and savor.”
Since it is thick, it retains its heat — so it is important to sip slowly.
“In order to get it thicker, I use a little bit of potato starch. It’s over 25-percent real cocoa, real sugar, so everything is natural,” Meneghetti said. “You have to bring it to a boil, so [it] takes an hour.”
You can tell it is made with care and a little Italian passion, something Meneghetti learned when she worked in a bakery as a child.
“I thought, ‘I can bring some of my experience in here.’ Then word of mouth and here we are 11 years later,” she said. “It is magical, that’s true. I just love to see people come in and smile.”
The hot cocoa is $3.50 per cup. Daniela’s is open most of the week, but the hours do change seasonally. And they even serves up homemade Italian gelato in the summer.
Your other favorite spots for a cup of cocoa are Victor’s 1959 Cafe in Minneapolis, Rustica Bakery in Minneapolis and Carol’s Restaurant in Blaine.