Mario and Nina Pelagalli use recipes passed down from family members from Rome and Naples as the blueprints for Casa Nostra Pizzeria & Ristorante's Italian cuisine. As the owners revealed to Sun Thisweek, Nina's mother creates the restaurant's sauces from scratch to ensure they carry on the family tradition of culinary excellence. Her concoctions blanket the 25 pastas on Casa Nostra's dinner menu, which also includes pizzas, paninis, and veal and chicken entrees. Having recently taken over a neighboring bar, the Pelagallis' restaurant now accommodates even more guests with roomier dining quarters and an expanded liquor stock. Evening entertainment includes Frank Sinatra tributes that pay homage to the crooner's singing ability and talent for intermittently firing blue lasers from his eyes.
At Cinema Ballroom, swinging students rhythmically master movement in a fun, supportive environment. Experienced professionals guide dancers through each 60-minute class, starting with the basics and progressing into more difficult techniques as students master their new moves and shimmy off their shyness. Dip a chip-toting partner into the spiciness of salsa, learning the cha cha, cumbia, and mambo, or lose your blues in the romantic embrace of the Argentine tango, where fancy footwork blends with raw emotion and the passionate singing of a lovelorn barrel organ. Partners wind their way through elegant waltzes in ballroom class, and Latin dancers incorporate swing, samba, and paso doble into the traditional salsa repertoire. Check the schedule for class times.
Chorizo, chihuahua cheese, lemongrass, and bamboo shoots are equally at home in Señor Wong’s kitchen, where executive chef Cody Monson fills the menu with Asian Mexican fusion plates. Tacos topped with barbacoa or smoky black beans join entrees such as szechwan steak stir-fry served with jasmine rice. Señor Wong also pairs more traditional bar bites, such as what the Star Tribune thinks “might be the best sweet potato fries in town,” with 18 draft craft beers from breweries such as Surly Brewing Co. and Summit Brewing Company. Weekly special events such as trivia and karaoke further foster the laid-back pub vibe, as patrons can sample sakes or sing lullabies to the Yuzo Sour Baby cocktail, which mixes rye whiskey, sour mix, egg whites, and lemon-peel essence.
Aura's culinary crew pulls together Italian and international flavors to craft their menu's cosmopolitan offerings of pasta, meat, and seafood. A full cast of pasta creations includes the linguine pescatore ($12), which nestles calamari and shrimp into noodles that patrons can then cross-stitch into a convenient bib. Baked pizza dough cloaks a gyro wrap ($8), and beer-battered onion rings form an edible foundation for an 8-ounce house steak ($16). For honey-mustard chicken ($10), chefs blanket tender breast in layers of potato, broccoli, and bacon, drizzle on a honey-mustard sauce, and bake their culinary masterpiece inside of a clay oven. Patrons break from dinner conversations to treat their palates to the flavors of domestic and imported wines, such as a glass-full of Canaletto pinot noir ($6) imported from Italy's vast sub-surface grape mines.
The Independent is a locally owned dining and cocktail destination boasting one of the happiest happy hours around. From 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. each day, city dwellers gather in the restaurant's chic yet casual confines to mingle over impressive daily specials, including $5 select appetizers, $5 specialty martinis, and $3 select draft beers and house wines. Pair a frothy Bells’ Two Hearted Ale tap brew ($3) with a classic Margherita pizza ($5), or wash down a chipotle-tinged plate of onion rings ($5) with a glass of crisp chardonnay ($3).
Inside a restaurant whose vibrant purple awnings help diners spot it from afar, cooks concoct 75 different dishes derived from the "roof of the world." Artwork-laden walls surround the tables and cushioned chairs in the dining area, where patrons enjoy home-cooked items ranging from Tibetan-style dumplings made with lean chopped beef to batter-fried sesame chicken. The restaurant's separate bar area provides patrons with a place where they can grab a drink, watch TV, and practice thumb-wrestling moves with others.