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Recommendations for French, Italian, Spanish meals

  • r

DH and I are planning a trip to these three countries, and to get ready for it we decided to hold our planning meetings over dinners at restaurants serving the cuisine of these three countries.

We're familiar with the biggies--La Belle Vie, Meritage--and Acqua, but are looking for recos for less well known but especially good places. The only requirement is that the sound level be low enough so that you can actually hear yourself think (thus La Ba Grassa is off the list).

Thanks for your thoughts!

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  1. How very fun!

    Here's a lovely recent thread on French meals. Vincent, I think, would be a fantastic choice for you. Also, breakfast at the Sofitel. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7284...

    For Spanish, Solera? http://www.solera-restaurant.com/ Or El Meson (which I've never tried!) http://www.elmesonbistro.net/

    Italian, hmmm... Al Vento. http://www.alventorestaurant.com/ I don't know how Tosca is since the chef left. http://www.trattoriatosca.com/

    ~TDQ

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    El Meson
    3450 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    Solera
    900 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

    Al Vento
    5001 34th Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408

    2 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      Note that Tosca may be too loud for you - at least that was my experience the one time I ate there on a weekend evening.

    2. For Italian, I'd try I Nonni.

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      I Nonni
      981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

      1. Cave Vin has some very traditional, very delicious French food. I Nonni has a nice variety of excellent Italian. Solera is probably the only real choice here for Spanish food.

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        Solera
        900 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

        Cave Vin
        5555 Xerxes Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55410

        I Nonni
        981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

        1. Great idea!

          Me, I'd go to Maison Darras (lunch only) to have wonderful sandwiches and to pump the French/American owners about where you should go in France. The husband grew up in France, and the American wife spent 10-15 years in Paris. They're both charming and great to talk to.

          Or go to Vincent for a wonderful lunch or dinner. The food here is as good - or better - than anything I've ever had in France. If Vincent is there, ask him about Cahors - it's a gorgeous town and well worth visiting.

          Anne

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          Maison Darras
          401 Robert St N, Saint Paul, MN 55101

          1. I third (or fourth) the Vincent recommendation for French. I think that and Meritage would be your best bets for that category.

            For Spanish, the only game in town is really Solera. El Meson is more Puerto Rican.

            For Italian, I Nonni is probably your best bet. Though I've also heard very good things about Roman Anthony's, though I haven't been.

            Quick disclaimer - I get what you're after, and it's a neat idea. But to label food as "French", "Spanish", and "Italian" is tricky. It would be like someone from England saying they want to eat American food so they can get ready for a visit to the States. What would you suggest? It's a tough one.

            As an example, you could get very similar dishes (if not almost exact) from France, Spain, and Italy if you were in the Barcelona - Marseille - Nice - Livorno areas - all coastal, all similar climate. In France, food from Normandy, Alsace-Lorraine, Haute Savoie, and Bordeaux are as different from each other as food from Boston, Memphis and New Mexico are from each other. Ditto with Sicily, Tuscany, and Piedmont (whereas food from Haute Savoie in France and Piedmont in Italy are very similar).

            If you're feeling particularly adventurous (and have a little extra money to burn), you might want to call the restaurants and see if they could prepare special meals that reflect the particular areas you are visiting. Perhaps Vincents would be willing to do that. That might be a lot of fun, and perhaps informative too. Because apart from excellent meals, if you're visiting Normandy or Nice, Vincent's food will be nothing like what you're going to get in those areas. Ditto with I Nonni - very good for northern Italy, but if you're visiting Sicily, for example, you might get better representation of Sicilian from Solera than from I Nonni.

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            El Meson
            3450 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

            Solera
            900 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403

            Meritage
            410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

            I Nonni
            981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

            1 Reply
            1. re: foreverhungry

              Thanks, all, for your ideas. We're going to be planning for weeks, so we'll have plenty of opportunity to check out these suggestions.

            2. Pierre's near 50th/Penn is also another option for French.

              1. Cafe Biaggio for Italian.