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Best Italian Restaurants In The Twin Cities

November 7, 2010 5:52 PM

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Bar La Grassa

credit: CBS

La dolce vita. It’s an Italian phrase meaning “the sweet life”. And what could be sweeter than a night out in an Italian restaurant? 

If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know there’s so much more to Italian eating than garlic, spaghetti and lasagna. Fresh, vibrant and diverse are three words that describe Italian food. There are so many regional cuisines in Italy, the phrase “Italian restaurant” could mean literally hundreds of different things.

What we have in the Twin Cities certainly matches this description. Here are a few of the restaurants that we are lucky enough to call our own and celebrate la dolce vita with!

Broders Pasta Bar

5000 Penn Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55410
(612) 925-9202
Directory | Website

Call this one a personal favorite. My dad turned me on to Broders Pasta Bar several years ago and until then, I didn’t know good Italian food. They don’t take reservations, the wait can be over an hour and it’s worth every second. Look for dishes with “housemade pasta” and you’ll be eating the freshest Italian in town. Delicious!

Bar La Grassa

credit: CBS

Bar La Grassa

800 North Washington Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55401
(612) 333-3837
Directory | Website

A critically raved about restaurant in the North Loop neighborhood near downtown Minneapolis. It’s worth the raving. A terrific place to go with a group and share a bunch of small plates. If it sounds, weird, sorry, but you have to try the bruschetta with soft eggs and lobster. It’s unbelievable. Also, one of the best late night stops. Eat at the bar and enjoy!


360 Saint Peter Street
St Paul, MN 55102-1512
(651) 223-7000
Directory | Website

Pazzaluna has become a favorite stop for people heading to Xcel for Wild games and for good reason. The pizza, cooked in a wood-burning oven, is very good. Also recommended for their terrific seafood selection.

al Vento Restaurant

credit: al Vento Restaurant

Al Vento Restaurant

5001 34th Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55417
(612) 724-3009
Directory | Website

Another “neighborhood” place like Broders, al Vento is in south Minneapolis near the Nokomis area. Fresh pasta, well prepared and very reasonably priced is what al Vento is all about. Visit them on a Tuesday “Date Night” for a 3 course dinner for $20. You can’t beat that!

Cossetta's Italian Market

credit: CBS

Cossetta’s Italian Market

211 7th Street West
Saint Paul, MN 55102
(651) 222-3476
Directory | Website

If you’re in St. Paul and looking for a quick, delicious lunch, there’s no better place than Cossetta’s. Part Italian grocery, part restaurant and fully delicious. Their pizza is the best and their Italian sandwiches are off the charts. Cossetta’s is classic Italian!

La Grolla

452 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102
(651) 221-1061
Directory | Website

On Selby in St. Paul is a little neighborhood Italian restaurant called La Grolla. I had never heard of it until our General Manager at WCCO Radio took us their following an event we did across the street at the St. Paul Curling Club. Boy am I glad he did. La Grolla isn’t a hardcore Italian restaurant. It’s just a cozy place with good, Italian influenced food. A great place to get a bottle of wine and enjoy a night out. What could be more Italian than that?


831 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN 55402-2506
(612) 333-7000
Directory | Website

Another place that may venture past the shores of Italy but does enough to make it a great Italian dining experience. Zelo is a popular downtown Minneapolis lunch spot and I’ll admit to spending several long lunches there. I’ve had a chicken and fennel soup there that rivals any soup I’ve ever had. And try the seafood. Pesto Sea Bass is fantastic. You may find a little Asian influence in their Italian cooking but it’s done right. Check it out.

-Lindsey Peterson is the Assistant Program Director for WCCO Radio.

View Comments
  • Jackie Santopietro

    Have you tried Nonna Rosa’s in Robbinsdale? I was delightfully surprised, very good!

    • Frannie

      My cousin works there…you are correct very good food!

    • Satch

      Robbinsdale? You don’t want to be a minority and go to Robbinsdale, they’ll shake you down.

  • James

    il Premio at Mystic Lake is excellent. I had the Lobster Ravioli and it was so good. Our server said they make hand-make it.

  • Amy

    Bar La Grassa is AWESOME. The prices are not bad either.


    Nonna Rosa’s in Robbinsdale is the best italian hands down.

  • Natalia

    Pino’s in Oakdale…

  • Pat Gill

    Nonna Rosa in Robbinsdale has great food. I don’t want to be too corny, but it seems the four times I’ve been there each dish was truly made with love. When we lunch there, my friend has to put up with all my ooohs and aaahs about how good the food tastes. I’m a Northeaster who has few bridges to get to Robbinsdale, but it’s worth the trip.

  • gmoney

    Zelos is an excellent restaurant to bring a date. great atmosphere

  • Jtc

    Odd – the only real Italian restaurant in the metro area is missing… iNonni in Lillydale. Seems there are only a few restaurant critics in the cities worth reading – clearly this is not one of them. What a joke – stick to reviewing buffets and hot dish.

    • DonP

      Having worked in Italy, I feel qualified to comment. I took the family to i Nonni a month ago. I thought it was generally OK, but quite overpriced compared to the competition. Pasta’s were not particularly impressive. The only main dish that left an impression was a sauteed veal liver. Al Vento does pasta better, as does Luci in St. Paul. I avoid the D’Amico places, as they consistently produce food without much flavor. I would try Nona Rossa in Robbinsdale based upon reviews.

  • betty

    Why do these restaurants call themselves “Italian”? They are not. Half of the times on their menus would never be found in a true Italian place. Please call it what they are ‘American’ fare and nothing esle.

  • Smart alec

    I have my own personal chef that make great Italian food. You may have heard of him – Chef Boyardee.

  • Kevin

    I remember well two Mediterranean Cruises while I was in the U. S. Navy. Our main port was Napels and we also visited Brindisi, Bari, and Catania, Scicily quite a few times.

    Those were real ITALIAN restaurants.

  • George

    Acquas in White Bear Lake wins hands down

  • Susan

    Try Arezzos Ristorante in Edina. They are the best!

  • Corey S

    Butcher Block in NE Minneapolis has my vote! Braised short ribs are fantastic. Buccatini is the best in the metro!!

    • Richard Head

      They need to offer more fresh local lamb instead of that NZ stuff cause it’s cheaper.

  • Ginger Shepla

    I hate Cosetta’s. They are painfully slow and VERY rude. Their food is OK at best. Not worth the wait they put you through.

  • pol

    You should try Caa Nostra in Lakeville.

  • pol

    sorry it is CASA NOSTRA

  • keith

    Just ate at Scussi in St Paul, that was excellent! The linguuni and clams were great and the atmosphere in the bar area was very good.


    the very best just closed after 60 years TOTINO’S

    • Susan

      I agree. so sad. loved the raviolis.

  • er

    Vescios-THE BEST

  • AM

    D’Amico on Hennepin is probably the most Italian out of all of these places mentioned above.

  • gdog

    Cossetta’s is not a quick lunch. You’ll be in line an hour and they are incredibly rude. I went there once and will never go there again.

  • Emily

    I’ve gone to Cossetta’s all my life, and have never been able to understand the negativity in the comment sections about the place whenever it’s mentioned. The food is good, the prices fair, the service has always been as friendly as it is at any other deli, and it moves along as quickly as I would expect. It’s not a McDonald’s drivethru, folks.

    • Joe

      Emily, I have to agree. I’ve been going to Cossetta’s my entire life. They are very friendly, and it doesn’t take very long at all to get your meals. Plus, the deli is the best in town. These people that think they are rude and slow,,,must frequent McD’s a lot.
      My qualifications: 100% Italian, grew up with the best Itlaian cooking ever from parents and grand parents. Every meal was fresh and wonderful.

  • Amy

    What about Butcher BlocK in Northeast? The food is AMAZING and the Chef is a wonderful, talented sweet man. I just moved away from Minneapolis and that is where I chose to have my last meal.

  • boaris

    Broders on 50th and Penn Ave So…..all you need to know

    • sueskitchen

      II so agree, the best raviolis ever!!!! I would give anything to be able to have them just one more time.

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