From its humble origins as a soda fountain in 1930s Saint Paul, Green Mill Restaurant and Bar has grown into a franchise with more than 28 locations all over Minnesota and the Midwest. As TV screens blast sports news in the background, patrons at each eatery dine on a menu of classic American and pizzeria fare. Thick, hand-pressed burgers form bunned towers with hefty toppings such as smoked bacon, haystack onions, and chipotle mayo. Families looking to bond can practice fractions on regular, deep-dish, or thin and crispy pizzas or group juggling acts with samplers of 27 juicy wings. In addition to pastas and salads, each location's bar carries a varied drink menu that includes draft beers such as Blue Moon and Samuel Adams alongside wine, martinis, and margaritas.
At Frankie's, chefs coat fresh pizza dough in red, alfredo, or barbecue sauce before sprinkling it with a fine blend of italian cheeses. They then blanket the pies with a choice from more than 20 toppings—one for each pizza it takes to feed a rugby team or a Venetian parking meter. The topping roster includes such delicious embellishments as sliced roast beef and basil, and once they've been added to the pies, the chefs bake them in a stone oven. The care that Frankie's staff takes with its pizzas is similar in magnitude to the selection of its menu's pastas and sandwiches, such as the baked rigatoni and the buffalo-chicken sandwich.
The bistro menu at Pinstripes can be served on the lanes and courts, in the dining room, or on the outdoor patio. Fill the first frame of your meal with a small plate such as the antipasto and cheese platter ($12). Pizzas such as the sweet and savory prosciutto fig flatbread ($12) arrive on wooden planks fresh from the wood-fire brick oven. An extensive wine list taps straight into Pinstripes' cavernous wine cellar. The candy-coated chocolate martini made with real Godiva chocolate ($9) is a perfect chaser for chocolaty house-made s'mores ($6). Pinstripes' Sunday- brunch spread includes a custom Bloody Mary bar and a magical chocolate fountain where strawberries and marshmallows bathe in nummy nectar (adults $22, kids $12).
At Arezzo Ristorante, chefs hand-press fresh batches of dough into thin crusts, ladle the disks with sauces made from Italian San Marzano tomatoes, and toss them into a blazing brick oven. This process, which adheres to strict standards of the Associazione Vera Napoletana, earned Arezzo Ristorante the Citysearch award for Best Pizza in 2009. In addition to pizzas, chefs toss house-made pastas with sautéed vegetables and traditional Italian cured meats.
Arezzo Ristorante’s interior pays homage to Italian culture as well: an earth-toned mural of the Italian countryside unfolds beneath marble arches, and stone mosaic floors flicker in the warm glow of the flame-fueled pizza oven.
Wrapped in a blanket of comforting atmosphere, al Vento’s décor flashes rustic charm with earthy tones, white tablecloths, mirror-lined walls, and a relaxing outdoor patio. Head chef and owner Jonathan Hunt's variable menu changes every day, so expect surprises as Hunt draws on his years of culinary expertise to devise the latest dish. You might fork-dive into small bites such as the sweet-corn-and-roasted-pepper bruschetta ($4.50) and Sicilian stuffed mushrooms with pine nuts and mother sauce ($7.25)—or you might prep for the next gravity outage by loading up on hearty entrees such as grilled pork tenderloin with two reductions ($18.75) and jumbo scallops with roasted-squash risotto and tomato brodo ($21.50). Fresh pizza and pasta make for excellent traditional options as well, while still leaving room for a dessert such as crème brûlée ($6) or the true-to-its-name Chocolate Oblivion (pastry crust with a sweet chocolate-ganache center topped with diced strawberries and vanilla crème anglais, $6). If all this food leads to a sluggish palate, punch it awake with a Cioccolatino martini ($8.50) or a glass of Solopaca Rosso ’07 red wine ($6) from the drinks menu.
After years in the restaurant business, Ramon and Armando Ruiz were ready for a change. Tired of the gimmicky marketing that characterizes many Italian franchises, they joined with Ramon’s son Enrique to open Andiamo Italian Ristorante—an intimate, neighborhood joint that emphasizes the family orientation of Italian culture. “We don’t want to say this is who we are, deal," Enrique told Eagan Patch. "We want to build relationships with our customers and encourage and welcome feedback.” To that end, their menu of mostly Italian entrees, pastas, and pizzas also includes nontraditional cuisine such as walleye fillets and burgers. The dining room’s decor remains 100% Italian. A mural of rustic wine barrels sweeps across warm orange walls, and a tricolor sign glows above its outdoor patio. Ruiz and his staff also venture beyond the restaurant’s confines to cater various events.