Pinstripes’ 50,000-square-foot space yields sanctuary to all sorts of merrymaking, sheltering 18 bowling lanes, indoor and outdoor bocce courts, and a kitchen firing hearty Italian cuisine. Demonstrate disdain for careful configurations of pins with bowling ($5–$7/person/game), or celebrate retirement by playing bocce ($8–$10/person/game) with papier-mâché balls made out of unneeded timesheets. Youngsters 12 and younger can develop their bowling arm and Fred Flintstone dances for $3. On Friday and Saturday nights, live blues and jazz bands perfume the air with soulful tunes.
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.
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.
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.
"Your food should be something you get your hands on and become a part of," Rob Dubnecay preached to a reporter from CBS Minnesota. "Sitting back with a fork and knife is kind of boring."
Along with his brother, Chris, Rob developed his philosophy—and his palate—while growing up in Chicago, where the brothers could hone their motor skills by wrapping their hands around Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef. Hoping to introduce their childhood cuisine to Minnesota, the duo founded Chris and Rob's Chicago's Taste Authority, where each week trucks haul in ingredients straight from the Windy City, such as fresh poppy-seed buns and sausages wrapped in old mobsters' hit lists. True to the authentic big-shoulders style, cooks top Vienna all-beef hot dogs with everything but ketchup: mustard, relish, onions, tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers, and a sprinkle of celery salt. The brothers have also adapted their roots to other Chicago favorites including sandwiches of sliced Italian beef, deep-dish pizzas, and Maxwell Street polish sausages.
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.
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.