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Jfood visits Osteria I Nonni (MSP) - Excellent

Jfood was able to wander over to Osteria I Nonni this evening for an absolutely great meal. From the moment he walked in until the walk out the door after his meal, the restaurant, the staff and the food were as close to perfect as possible.

With no reservation on a Wednesday night Jfood was a little nervous. Then he walked in and saw the sign that there was a private party. Oh no, not again (it happened the night before at 112). He looked around and saw an empty bar and several empty tables so he breathed a sigh of relief. The room itself is beautiful with vaulted ceilings, wonderful lighting fixture, soft lighting and a sound level where people can hear others at their table.

They sat him at a nice 2-top and brought over some nice, warm bread and butter. The waitress arrived and offered water or wine and asked if Jfood wanted to hear the specials. They were perfectly presented and she even mentioned the price of each. She also presented the tasting menu, described each dish nicely and then gave Jfood time to decide.

When he was ready, he ordered the House-Made Gnocchetti with Ragu of Braised
Goat and Parmigiano Reggiano ($14) for an appetizer and the Braised Beef Short Rib alla Cacciatore with Turnips, Cipollini Onions and Mustard Greens ($26) for an entrée.

The gnocchetti arrived and the first thing that Jfood noticed was the abundance of the braised goat. The dish was basically 60% goat and 40% gnocchetti. A little fresh ground pepper was added and Jfood first taste produced a wonderful smile on his face. The goat was tender (well there were a couple that were tougher than others). The only disappointment was the lightness of the gnocchetti. They were a little too dense and they could have been more “pillowy”. All Jfood could think of was the episode of Top Chef and the description of “pillows” that was discussed. Jfood would rate this a strong 9. Too bad they were not lighter as a 10 was what Jfood really want to give this dish.

The short rib arrived and it was large, placed atop the mustard greens with the vegetables circumventing the beef. Jfood is a huge fan of cipollinis so that was his first bite. Perfect flavor, but they could have been a little hotter. His first taste of the beef also brought the second large smile of the night. The flavor of these ribs rival any other Jfood has eaten. The turnips were a bit undercooked and likewise could have been brought to a higher temperature. But that is a personal preference. So once again Jfood would rate this dish a strong 9.

The server was about as professional and on top of her game as possible. She knew when to arrive, knew the dishes, and was pleasant and efficient. She gets a 10 for the evening.

So if you would like a great meal in a beautiful restaurant with fantastic service Jfood wholeheartedly recommends Osteria I Nonni.

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  1. As always, thanks for the review. This is one place I still haven't been, but I think this moves it very high up on the list. I've hear their short ribs are exceptional.

    1. Across the street from 112 Eatery is Saffron. That's another don't-miss place in the Twin Cities.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Jordan

        That's good to know. The othjer night there was a private party when jfood arrived at 112. No room and 45 minute wait at the bar. He had a great parking spot and pulled out. At the light he looked at Saffron and wondered if it was good.

        Thanks Jordan.

        1. re: jfood

          jfood, you should absolutely try Saffron.

          Their monthly tasting menu for 2 is one of the best deals in town at $30/person for 3 courses. I know that might not be what you are looking for, but I thought it should be mentioned. Also, their happy hour (early and late night) is very underrated. The mini lamb BLT (made with house cured lamb bacon) is one of the real little treats of MSP.

          I'm very impressed with the place, especially considering the head chef/owner is only in his mid-20s.

          1. re: BigE

            i'm 3rding a visit to saffron. sameh wadi is a great chef-- he was on the long list for james beard rising star (chef under 30) last year. his family runs holy land, the venerable local middle eastern deli. saffron is totally underrated-- i think partly because it's across from 112, but it's a lovely place with an artfully composed menu-- definitely where i head when i'm in the mood for lamb's brains or homemade mirquaz. and don't skip dessert at saffron, ime it's phenomenal. great service too.

            Jfood i've very much enjoyed reading all of your detailed reports, though i haven't had time to respond to all of them. i'm so glad you've gotten the chance to explore msp's great restaurants!

        2. I'm really happy to hear this. I feel like I recommend this place so much it should be in some kind of auto-signature on my posts.

          Along those lines, they had a URL change not too long ago -- many of the posts are incorrect now:

          www.inonnirestaurant.com

          Looking forward to your next writeup. (By the way, you alluded to some not-so-good meals in a recent post which left me curious. Feel free to share)

          1. Jfood - glad you enjoyed another great MSP visit.

            The last 2 visits to I nonni my only complaint was undercooked side veggies/potatoes/squash.

            1 Reply
            1. re: St Paul Susie

              Jfood, I am glad you had a memorable meal. This is my favorite dining place in the Twin Cities. I always bring people from out-of-town here, and I go with my family as often as we can afford. :)

            2. We had a quiet dinner at Osteri I Nonni- quiet because the restaurant was almost empty. Our meal started with prosciutto and calamari. I love that the calamari is classically done (a la Romana) and served with lemon wedges. It reminds me of my time in Spain. It was well seasoned and tender. The prosciutto was sweet and sliced paper thin. Our entrées were the Osso Bucco ravioli. The pasta was so tender and light. The filling was also tender and succulent. The ravioli was served with a lemon buerre blanc. The flavor was bright and very lemony. My only complaint that it might have been a touch too lemony for me. I almost felt my teeth squeak, but otherwise very good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: BigSal

                Big Sal was that during the week that they were empty?

              2. I visited I Nonni on Thursday night with a client. We had early reservation - 5:30. There was one table of two already there, and during the next 2+ hours only two more tables filled. I am very worried about the future of this gorgeous dining spot.

                We had wonderful food and great service. We both had the new 3 course degustation. This is a great value - an app, pasta and entree for $35. There are many choices for pasta and entree, but the app is limited to crostini and one of three salads.

                We both started with the baby red oak salad with fried leek, fennel pollen, pig belly and sunburst tomato viniagrette. Wonderful combination, although I could not pick up the fennel pollen flavor. Dressing was tart, which I like. Loved this salad.

                Next course we had the orecchiette with pork sausage, spicy rapini, crema and pecorino crotonese and the house-made ravioli with braised veal shank and lemon-thyme butter. Both pastas were cooked to a perfect al dente. The Orecchiette was a huge serving, very generous amount of sausage, a little bland on the flavor. The ravioli melted in the mouth, and the filling was simply luscious. It was a perfect dish, only wish we got more than three.

                For the third course we ordered chicken saltimbocca with grilled asparagus and lemon-caper sweet butter and pan-roasted alaskan halibut with local sweet corn, wilted chard, saffron and swordfish bottarga. I wanted my guest from Atlanta to try Minnesota corn, so we also ordered the side of roasted corn with garlic butter. I am usually a corn purist - butter and salt only, please. However, the garlic was really nice. I will be adding that touch at home. The chicken course was lovely - stuffed with fontina, sage and prosciutto and cooked to perfection. A generous serving - 5 large stalks - of asparagus accompanied this course. The halibut was, well, flavorless. It was nice and flaky, but it seriously had no flavor. The sauce was also bland. The chard and corn were very good.

                Despite a bit of inconsistency due, I suspect, to the chef turnover in the kitchen, the meal was wonderful. The menu had definitely expanded, and the three course meal is a great value. We did not have room for dessert. Dessert has typically been OK here - will have to come again soon to try the new offerings.

                1. I must say, after viewing the menu and how many options there are for the tasting menu, I really want to go to this place. Despite it being more expensive than I can normally afford, I would look forward to saving up a bit to try this one out!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: greenidentity

                    Went there for the first time a couple weeks ago and had a great experience. Can't tell you exactly what we had, though I really liked the idea of the create your own 3 course prix fixe. I think I had a beet salad, shared some of my husbands seafood ravioli, definitely bucatini amatriciani (that was great) and lamb chops. I guess I should have written a review sooner, but I would go again for sure. It was a Sunday night and started slow but the room filled up pretty nicely.