Best Italian Restaurant for Dinner…in Minnesota!

This has been quite a week full of personal fame and fun.  I will not recap, but you can read blog posts about the momentary fame in print on Monday and fame on the radio on Tuesday.  Fame comes and goes, though, and now it is Wednesday.  Fame is over.  Now we are on to fun things…like looking back at how we celebrated!

To celebrate my fun and fame on Monday night, my huz took me to one of our favorite restaurants – Nonna Rosa’s – in Robbinsdale, MN.  They currently only have 762 “likes” on Facebook, and, though I would like to keep them all to myself, they deserve many more than that.  Click here to like them. Only minutes from our house, this small restaurant has become a place that we frequent when we have a bad day, when we have a great day, or when we just need some creme brulee (I cannot figure out how to use accent marks in WordPress – sorry!!!!!).  Did you like how that rhymed?

Typically the huz and I share a meal and a dessert, but Monday night we each ordered our own dish as well as a shared dessert.  The default dish (which we did not order on Monday, by the way) is always Veal Parmesan.  The noodles are always al dente; the red sauce resembles the gravy that my Nana made (in our family sauce does not have meat in it but gravy does…there are different colors of gravy: brown, white, and red).  When I close my eyes and take a bite, I feel transported to a kitchen in Cranston, Rhode Island.  When I open my eyes, though, I realize that I am sitting at an Italian restaurant in Minnesota. As I have written in previous blogs, I am Italian…if you are not, you know you want to be!  Nothing is more Italian about me than my tastebuds.

One of the aspects of Nonna Rosa’s that I love is that the food is made with authentic recipes handed down from generation to generation.  Although Chef Francesco has ventured out of his grandmother’s kitchen and experimented, the heart and taste of the food seriously is all family.  One of our favorite dishes – Walleye with Risotto – is a perfect example of this.  Served during the summer when fresh walleye is available (Nonna’s only serve fish that is fresh), this dish taught me that risotto is gourmet.  I just kind of thought it was “that rice dish.”  Wow!  Was I wrong!  Made correctly…or perfectly by Chef Francesco…this is a fine meal.

On Monday night, my huz really wanted risotto, but the risotto special as well as the risottos on the menu did not have the perfect combination of ingredients.  That is really not a problem at Nonna’s.  My husband explained to our server that he is difficult and then proceeded to state his perfect risotto wish list of ingredients including shrimp, salmon, and asparagus.  She responded, “Not a problem.  We like our customers to feel like they have just walked into their grandmother’s kitchen and can ask her for whatever they want to eat.”

Making their customers feel at home seems to be the essence of Nonna Rosa’s.  Because I forgot my favorite gloves at the restaurant on Monday night, I needed to return last night.  While Chef Francesco’s wife and co-owner of the restaurant – Tina – searched and eventually found my gloves (thanks to the server who had found them), I also mentioned that I had forgotten to take a picture of my creme brulee so that I could blog about how great it was.  I asked if they had a picture of it.  She determined that the only way for me to get a picture of it was to order one up.  She did so, I took the picture, and we shared the creme brulee.

Thankfully the creme brulee of the night yesterday was the same flavor as the one on Monday night – Bailey’s.  Each night the creme brulee has a different flavor on the top.  This one happens to be my favorite.  Chef Francesco’s creme has a perfectly smooth consistency and flavor that satiates without overpowering.  The balance of flavors with the pudding and the caramelized crackle creates a positively comforting and exciting atmosphere inside my mouth.  Although I should linger in my consumption of this dessert, that rarely happens.  Every time I have the last bite, I want to order another.  Doing so would not solve the issue, however, because there would be a last bite of that one as well.

Sharing my favorite dessert with the co-owner of one of my favorite restaurants was so much fun and completely serendipitous.  Things like this just do not happen, but it did.  I enjoyed my conversation with Tina.  I learned that they have family ties with my family’s favorite breakfast place – Emily’s F&M Cafe.  Our family loves Emily’s.  In the midst of writing this blog, I found them on Facebook and liked them.  You should too! And then go for a visit so that will more than virtually like them.  After you try the pancakes or the hashbrowns or the Italian omelette (that’s what the huz says…so wish I liked eggs so that I would try this), you will LOVE them.  Last winter, we frequented Emily’s after shoveling ourselves out of 24inches of snow…several times.

Tina also shared with me the “main idea” of Nonna Rosa’s.  I had known that the restaurant was named after a Nonna (grandmother) in the family, but the restaurant is really a tribute to all of their grandmothers, their fine cooking, and family in general.  In the same way that the bar called Cheers was a place where “everyone knows your name,” Nonna Rosa’s is a restaurant where everyone feels like they are eating in Grandma’s kitchen.  Tina actually said, “At Grandma’s house, you don’t have to eat your vegetables, and you always get dessert.”

And that is why I will keep going back…just give me a reason!


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7 responses to “Best Italian Restaurant for Dinner…in Minnesota!

  1. Gena

    I have Nonna Rosa’s on my “Italian resteraunts in MN I need to try” list. I do believe I shall find it during my Christmas shopping.
    Loving that you call it gravy. My husband’s family likes to poke fun of me.


  2. Thanks so much for the sweet sentiments about our little family restaurant! I enjoyed sharing creme brulee with you too! I just needed a “reason” to order it! We look forward to seeing you soon! Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo!


  3. Nonna Rosa’s is on my favorite list too! Not only do Tina and Chef Francesco have great stories to share, they are wonderful people who know their way around a kitchen. I’ve taken two classes from them through community ed, one was a bread making class with my 8 year old daughter and the other was a cooking class where we got to watch and sample some of Chef Francesco’s delicious cooking. This place is a keeper!


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  7. Italian cuisine has developed over the centuries. Although the country known as Italy did not unite until the 19th century, the cuisine can claim traceable roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Through the centuries, neighbouring regions, conquerors, high-profile chefs, political upheaval and the discovery of the New World have influenced its development.


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