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Dec 19, 2011 08:35 AM

Il Gatto closed

In case you missed the news, Il Gatto closed suddenly Saturday night. I'm surprised at the how and when, but I guess it must have been burning money to shutter so suddenly. It'll be interesting to see if Parasole keeps the space.

Il Gatto
3001 Hennepin Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408

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  1. Huhm. You bring up a good point. It's impossible to follow restaurant news without appreciating how the finances can get thin & wild, and quickly so. Still, I don't recall the Parasole organization ever resorting to a sudden closure before. Does anyone else?

    1. First off...why did they mess with Figlio? Granted it had a few opportunities...but its like coaching in pro sports...Why not try and fix things rather than always scrubbing and throwing another dart. Il Gatto never made me feel the way figlio did...and I think its pathetic to even include a restaurant like Burger Jones with either of them. I would rather have the Nook, Matts, or 5 guys before I would even consider BJ. Burgers are like pizza. Its very easy to make it edible. Its very hard to make it exciting or unique.

      I think the availability, price, and selection that food trucks are beginning to offer could teach Uptown a few things. IMO Chino Latino is to cool what Justin Bieber is to sex object. I am sure someone believes just ain't me.

      1. i think parasole and the blue plate group empires, despite their lock on good restaurant real estate, are having a very hard time competing with msp's current indie restaurants in terms of food quality for price point. i agree w Bob and am interested to see whether parasole will put something else into the same space-- or whether calhoun square has become a sort of retailer's bermuda triangle that nobody wants to throw their money at.

        15 Replies
        1. re: soupkitten

          Very good point. You remind me that I feel roughly the same way about both groups' restaurants -- the vibe is usually a good fit for the neighborhood; the food is usually good but rarely rises to excellent.

          I'd say both are very savvy in their real estate acquisitions, gradually waning in their kitchen strength.

          1. re: soupkitten

            Stewart Woodman, on his blog, stated that Parasole tried to get their restaurants to clear a 17% margin. That's a lot of money, and in my experience as a foodie/restaurant goer, not the kind of margin you get by aiming at narrow niches, being super-adventurous, or ladling out the protein with a heavy hand. Maybe Parasole restaurants have to be what they are.

            The guest writer of that same entry on Shef's blog claimed that one of Figlio's/Il Gatto's downfalls was the difficulty of parking at Calhoun Square. I don't get that at all. Then again, I'm a city dweller -- I can navigate parking ramps and even parallel park. :-/ Figlio did well from the get go, Famous Dave's has been there about forever, and Chang Mai Thai and Sushi Tango have survived for at least a decade. Parking was a killer? Really?

            1. re: steve_in_stpaul

              yeah i don't get the parking issue. there is a big parking ramp attached to cs. 17% is a *huge* margin for a restaurant, and it really translates onto the plate.

              1. re: steve_in_stpaul

                I'm wondering if the parking issue is an issue for certain crowds, but not for others. Meaning, Il Gatto, with it's menu and higher price point, is attracting a different clientele than, say, Chino Latino. Folks going to Chino are in Uptown for the evening - dinner, drinks, bars, etc. Ditto with Chang Mai Tai, Famous Dave's, etc. Those restaurants aren't a destination in-and-of-itself, they are part of evening's total package (Famous Dave's may be a whole evening, but not just for the food). For folks going out for a whole evening, parking in Uptown isn't a huge issue, because they're going to be there for 6 hours.

                But for the Il Gatto crowd, it's a bit different. I don't think the folks going to Il Gatto are going to be hitting Williams later on. They're in Uptown just for dinner. In which case, parking can be hassle, particularly on weekends. If you can get similar food to Il Gatto elsewhere, without paying the $10+ for parking, and without navigating Uptown on a weekend evening, then why go to Il Gatto? Once they tried to "fancy up" the theme from Figlio to Il Gatto, I think the crowd switched, and it switched to a crowd that's less likely to want to deal with Uptown crowds and traffic. For those that don't mind Uptown crowds and traffic, Il Gatto is at too high a price point. Lucia's does well, I think, because it's much smaller, and has a loyal following. I'm certainly not a restauranteur, but I'm not sure Uptown can handle a large, upscale restaurant with prices to match.

                1. re: foreverhungry

                  but don't you get a parking voucher for the ramp? asking here, because i honestly don't know, but i used to live 3 blocks away from cs and we were offered vouchers any time we made any purchase in cs.

                  1. re: soupkitten

                    Huh. I never knew about vouchers for Calhoun Square, and always paid. I have never been told about or offered a parking voucher at Il Gatto, Kitchen Window, or Chang Mai Tai when I've been there recently, or at the Independent (though I haven't been there in the last year, and heard they closed).

                    1. re: soupkitten

                      I think the ramp re-(de?)construction went on too long for a lot of businesses in Calhoun Square. People just gave up.

                      The one time I went to Il Gatto I was surprised that the noise level seemed even worse than when the space housed Figlio. How could that be? Then it hit me - there were only half as many patrons so the echo effect was even more pronounced.

                      1. re: MplsM ary

                        oh i guess i didn't know about construction issues, that would make more sense.

                        when we did live right there, it seemed like there were frequent issues w street parking, and not so much w the residents but with visitors. particularly during that winter "let's close down all the major streets so that people can ski and nobody who lives in the area can get to the grocery store" thing they do, and particularly the uptown art festival. holy fucking white women in audis driving 45 mph the wrong way down a one-way-street where kids are playing, batman!

                        as much as parasole is concerned w location location location, the fact that they are bailing on calhoun square entirely really speaks to what has become of that henn-lake intersection

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          They haven't bailed on the location - Uptown Cafeteria still takes up a good chunk of space in Calhoun Square. Plus, you're assuming that Parasole bailed. For all we know the landlord may have pulled the space from them under the terms of their lease.

                          1. re: bob s

                            Nope, it was definitely Parasole's decision. See Phil Roberts's comments in The Strib piece yesterday.


                            1. re: keithinmpls

                              I'm not trying to be (overly) argumentative, keith, but the article does not say that it was Parasole's decision. All that the article (not a Roberts quote) says is that the space has been returned to the landlord and is up for lease. We don't know whether or not they voluntarily returned the space or not.

                              I'm not saying that it wasn't Parasole's decision because it certainly may have been. I only know from personal experience that these things are not always as they seem.

                          2. re: soupkitten

                            "particularly the uptown art festival. holy fucking white women in audis driving 45 mph the wrong way down a one-way-street where kids are playing, batman!"

                            OMD, too funny. THIS is why I don't miss living in uptown. I think ones tolerance for that flavor of madness must expire at age 24 unless one is chemically dependent. I guess that sort of explains why a resto like Il Gatto fails. Catering (and pricing) to grown ups is NOT very uptown.
                            OTOH, uptown is not very uptown these days, either.

                            1. re: splatgirl

                              ""uptown is not very uptown these days, either."

                              ^ this.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                EXACTLY. Uptown was, at one point, a destination that merited the hassle. It was a hip area when much of Minneapolis wasn't terribly commercially developed and the suburbs were intolerably bland. Ten years ago, you didn't have Piccolo, Al Vento, Craftsman, Travail, not to mention many of the options on Eat Street, Central and University (some were there, but had not been discovered by most).

                                Now, the hassle of navigating Uptown has increased, the area is less hip, and surroundings areas have caught up.

                      2. re: foreverhungry

                        FH, I think that's a good assessment. If you are going to spend a night in Uptown, the extra time finding parking isn't such a big deal. If you just want to grab a bite, it can be a pain. I'm a city dweller to, but have always found parking around there to be particularly annoying, especially with what seems like an endless series of random construction projects.

                  2. dh reports that this was a surprise to the crew of the restaurant as well. management let everyone go through a business-as-usual saturday night dinner service, then informed the entire staff that they were out of a job, and happy holidays, and go piss off now.

                    i'm going to tip a buck more next time i'm in a parasole restaurant. i also need to get a better line on gossip, as dh manages to scoop me every dang time. he's got this weird dishwasher grapevine thing going on with every restaurant in town.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: soupkitten

                      Closing like this is SOP for corporate restaurants. If staff knows they are being let go, bottles of wines and frozen meats/seafood tend to disappear. This was not the case with M&S Grill as the staff were being transferred down the street to McCormick's.

                    2. But....they must have been BURNING money to close now as opposed to January 3, right? I have to say I went to Figlio's many times, but Gatto once and did not return. I don't know what it was, but the back room was too noisy and the bar side just didn't have the same feel.

                      Well, it obviously CAN be a great space. I hope something interesting happens there.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lincster

                        " ...I have to say I went to Figlio's many times, but Gatto once and did not return...."

                        This was my experience as well. Il Gatto was awful! Plus their servers wore such hideously sexist T-shirts. C'mon!

                        1. re: Rowdy

                          +1. Figlio was a decades long standby for us. I never even went to Il Gatto.