By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The year was 1998. Two years before Xcel Energy Center opened, an Italian restaurant hung up an awning near the St. Paul Hotel, and hoped it would last a couple years. Now, Pazzaluna is an icon of the downtown St. Paul dining scene.

“It was a risk, leaving my job at the hotel to come here,” said Patti Summers, a St. Paul native who started her restaurant career as a server at a Bridgeman’s. Summers was successful as a server at the St. Paul Grille, and she loved her hometown.

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“I did grow up in St. Paul, this is very much like my home,” said Summers. She and five other employees were there on Pazzaluna’s very first day in 1998, and they’re still getting it done today.

Every night, people pour into Pazzaluna before they head off to a Wild game at the X, or a chamber orchestra concert at the Ordway, quick and special service has helped Pazzaluna continue to thrive.

“I think 20 is a huge number! I think 5 and 10 are big numbers,” noted Lance Kapps, Executive Chef for Pazzaluna’s owner, Morrissey Hospitality.

“It’s a big menu, I think the menu is geared for event nights, and it’s geared for special occasions,” said Kapps.

Looking back at an opening menu for some restaurants would be like getting in a culinary time machine. But at Pazzaluna, the Fritto Misto, fried calamari, is still the same today. So is the spinach ravioli, a homemade noodle with a sugo pomodoro sauce.

The Rissotino Milanese is still fantastic 20 years later: chicken, asparagus, and saffron – and who doesn’t like a giant shell molded out of parmesan cheese.

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(credit: CBS)

“It’s amazing that some things stick on there. The classics are the classics in Italian food and you don’t go too far from that,” said Kapps.

But even the chef knows that good food alone doesn’t keep a restaurant buzzing for this long; it’s the people like Patti. And the regular customers who come week after week.

“Some of them are my friends outside of work too. Our regular customers are pretty special,” said Summers.

With its pizzas, pastas, and the original homemade tiramisu, Pazzaluna’s ready to bring in the next twenty years. How about Patti?

Maybe “5 more years! Probably not 20,” she laughed.

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360 St Peter Street
St. Paul, MN 55102

Jason DeRusha