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.
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 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 the eatery's belly, a behemoth stone fireplace lavishes tables with a warm glow that illuminates all the eclectic decor nearby. Eyes can scan diverse adornments ranging from mounted portraits and sports paraphernalia to several flat-screen TVs broadcasting the latest game. Atop glistening tabletops, forks globetrot across international fare such as Italian pizzas, Cajun-style po boys, and thai wraps. If pairing wine's not your bag, a neighboring blackboard lists all the night's available draft and bottled brews.
Fireside also enthusiastically hosts private banquets within a full-size log cabin dubbed The Warming House. With its spacious interior and high ceilings, The Warming House can accommodate up to 52 guests for sit-down service, 70 for a mingling reception, or 150 for a contortionist convention.
Head chef and owner Jonathan Hunt changes al Vento Restaurant's menu daily, dreaming up seasonal dishes to showcase the many facets of southern Italian cuisine. Bubbling pizzas rouse palates from morning stamp-licking circles with crispy crusts and toppings such as fresh basil and tomato ($9.75) or juicy fennel sausage with herbed goat cheese ($11). Pasta dishes harness summer's rampant produce for plated tours of the countryside fueled by fettuccine mixed with asparagus, english peas, and cherry tomatoes ($14). Cooks complement tender chicken breast with italian pork sausage and velvety spinach risotto ($16.75) as knowledgeable servers help guests crown meals with jewel-toned beverages ($6−$10) from the wine and drink lists. Desserts, such as creamy, frozen pistachio custard with chocolate shavings ($6), soothe excited taste buds and cool heated arguments between spaghetti-Western cowboys.
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.
At Parkway Pizza, the chattering rhythm of pool balls punctuates the sounds of busy silverware and diners blowing on steaming-hot pizza slices to cool them. The buttery, hand-tossed crusts brim with adventurous toppings that include shrimp, goat cheese, and even sauerkraut, and chefs can also craft gluten-free dough for the pies. Beneath televisions playing classic flicks in the dining room, Parkway's thick hoagies spill ham, turkey, and cheese, drawing nervous glances from anyone finishing a legal defense on a napkin. Rotating seasonal brews click together in glasses, sometimes spilling honey-colored rivulets of Fulton's The Lonely Blonde or earthy Summit IPA in the shade beneath Parkway's red and green patio umbrellas. Chatter drifts out into the sunshine as a delivery driver glides past on a bicycle with a cart for pizzas.