minnesota: best red sauce italian rests
This recent thread evolved into a discussion of red sauce restaurants. My picks are Dari-ette (summer only) or Little Oven in St. Paul, but I haven't been to Mama's yet. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/479567#3298698
Here's soupkitten's glorious mama's report. http://www.chowhound.com/topics/492068
This is a tricky one for me to answer. The places where I enjoy the pasta the most aren't necessarily the places that have the red sauce I like the most, and the places where I enjoy the sauce itself the most don't have the best overall pasta dishes.
For example, my favorite pastas are from Broder's Pasta Bar. I like the whole package - the pasta, and saucing, etc. While the sauces are superior in quality to that of the other places I am about to name, the red sauces aren't the hearty, stick-to-your-ribs Italian gravy that has come to be comfort food for me. It's not the type of sauce I would want to eat a spoonful of, but it's perfect when paired with their pastas and other ingredients.
The two places I get that sort of sauce are Luce and Cossetta's. Neither place has any dish that bests Broder's, but god I love the sauce. It's rich, thick, spiced right, and soul-satisfying. At both places, I enjoy the sauce best with the lasagna (although it is also good with the penne at Cossetta's). I enjoy mopping up the sauce with bread the most at those places.
Broder's isn't red sauce italian. It's gentrified. Red sauce places don't serve anything but red sauce on their pasta and they usually have hokey Eyetalian-American decorations. Buca is kind of a chain themed on that. A lot of the classic Red Sauce places are gone now. Totino's in NE for example. Yarusso's and Mama's certainly fit the bill. I would nominate Mama's as my favorite and most typical red sauce place. Although I would say that a lot of Mama's appeal comes from the atmosphere and somewhat from the food.