I Nonni, without a doubt. Fillipo will do you right, esp. if you ask what is freshest and what he'd like to make. I've yet to have anything other than a stellar meal there. The café/take out on the other side is great. I love their eggplant and my friend swears by their pasta. You can get very small samples of almost anything you'd like to try - just ask for the deli cup.
Personally, I have to recommend Brianno's in Eagan. They make fantastic sandwiches and salads, very tasty pastas (though they tend to put pepperoni in most of it) and some excellent tiramisu. They also import both their meats and cheeses from Italy. Oh, and their pizza is out of this world. :)
Pano Vino Dolce. Wow, are they still in business? Early on they had the gall to do the old “offer only sparkling water and then charge through the nose for it” routine at lunch, and the “we don’t take reservations” at dinner. One meal in near-total darkness and reverberating cacophony was enough for me.
Osteria I Nonni – just go.
981 Sibley Memorial Hwy
St Paul, MN 55118
Cafe Di Napoli – Keep your antennae out for a classic red sauce joint was originally on Hennepin and is planning to reopen (has recently reopened?) in the skyways downtown.
Ristorante Luci – the interior design and difficulty in getting a reservation are just to discourage the crowds.
470 Cleveland Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105
Luci Ancora – Luci’s younger stylish sister. A bit more modern and easier to get a reservation.
2060 Randolph Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55105
D’Amico Cucina – don’t let the nearly-ubiquitous deli outlets make you think the flagship isn’t special.
100 North Sixth Street-Butler Square
Minneapolis, MN 55403
La Toscana – hasn’t been mentioned in years. Is it still open? Located in Calhoun Village.
3431 Saint Louis Ave
Minneapolis, MN 55416
Broder’s Pasta Bar – A good plate of pasta, a nice atmosphere and some wonderful early-week specials.
5000 Penn Ave S (Cross Street: 50th Street W)
Minneapolis, MN 55419
Pane Dolce Vino - Still open and a lot less attitude. Also a lot less crowded that it apparently once was. We've had several good meals there in the last year. FYI, I was able to schedule a party of 12 there for a Saturday night with less than a week's notice. So the reduction in attitude may have something to do with a drop in popularity. I would still not go there for a quiet dinner -- the noise is noticeable -- but I'd think about it if you are in the neighborhood.
Luci Ancora has always been pretty good, but I've always walked away from it with a feeling that it wasn't up to what it should be. I can't tell if it is the food or if it is that the prices seem a few dollars too high. If someone suggested it as a place to go, though, I'd be happy to join them there.
Sadly, La Toscana has been closed for several years. I thought it was one of the best restaurants in town (of any cuisine) when it was open.
Broder's Pasta Bar is just down the street from Pane Dolce Vino. Great food.
I think that its sister, Broder's Cucina Italiana, serves the best "red-sauce" style food in South Minneapolis. It's across the street from the Pasta Bar. It's very low key. You order at a deli case and then sit down or take out.
I've also had a couple of pretty good meals at La Grolla (on Selby?) in St. Paul, although it sounds from others that it can be either hit or miss.
I also have a soft spot in my heart for Totino's on Central in NE Minneapolis, although the food is not in the same league as most of the other places mentioned so far. Classic red sauce.