Italian Eatery in South Minneapolis

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Shortly after ie Italian Eatery opened, a marquee in the parking lot read, “Hi.” That’s it. No boasting. No big promises. Just a simple welcome. Like the message, everything about this restaurant — from the service and food to the decor and vibe — is straightforward and approachable. Ie doesn’t try to be the most fancy, cool, or “authentic” Italian restaurant in town. Instead, it aims for and achieves high-quality, friendly service and well-executed, delicious food in a stylish, casual environment. That ie hits all those marks is a credit to the owners, Eric and Vanessa Carrara, and their staff.

In line with some other excellent new restaurants, including Ramen Kazama, Revival, and Saint Dinette, ie’s menus (dinner and brunch) are focused and relatively brief, allowing the kitchen to concentrate on a manageable number of dishes and saving the diner from painfully long menu “tours.” Also like these other special spots, ie elevates standard items that eateries often treat as afterthoughts. Tomato soup ($5, below) with mascarpone and Parmigiano Reggiano is a tangy, creamy delight.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Pork, veal, and beef meatballs ($12) served with a deep, rich red sauce are juicy and packed with flavor. A large portion of exquisitely fried yam ravioli ($8, below) impressively achieves the sweet and savory one-two punch.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Chef Stephanie Miller, who has worked in some of the best kitchens in the area (including Piccolo and Heartland), also uplifts everyday breakfast items. Mixed with just the right amount of fresh oregano, roasted tomatoes, fontina, and cream cheese, perfectly soft-scrambled eggs ($14, including bacon and toast) displayed Miller’s expert technique and made our trek on a negative-10-degree morning worthwhile. Beautifully crisped baby potatoes ($8) accompanied by nduja aioli (a decadent and tasty mayonnaise and salami spread); delicious, pan-seared sausage ($5); and pillowy polenta pancakes ($9) with sweet and tart (but not too much of either) limoncello curd and blueberries sealed the deal.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Miller’s skills are also evident in dishes that less adept chefs tend to screw up. Supple and not the slightest bit rubbery, octopus ($13) arrives with great char, magnificent taste, and inventive plating. The giant short rib ($22) is fork tender and not at all greasy; with fat-cutting, sweet-and-sour onions, it’s among the most flavor-packed beef dishes we’ve tasted in the Twin Cities. And the chocolate torte ($7, above) — often too dense, heavy, or sugary — is a skillfully balanced stunner. Olive oil keeps the cake moist and rich, like a brownie crossed with a soufflé, and whipped cream, pistachios, and a few grains of flaky salt are superb accompaniments.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The largest section of ie’s dinner menu is devoted to pasta (several of these dishes also appear on the brunch menu). Judging by the three pastas we tried, Miller is a first-rate pasta maker and cook, and her high-quality sauces are tasty, though somewhat restrained. Diners who prefer bigger and bolder flavors (such as those at Broders’) may find the sauces too timid, but the main features here are the pastas. So butter and Grana Padano add understated richness to luscious gnocci ($16 full, $12 half); fennel sausage, pecorino, white wine, and garlic provide sweetness, spiciness, and funkiness to killer bucatini ($16 or $12 for a small portion, pictured above); and a combination of tomatoes, mascarpone and basil adds brightness and warmth to delicate, simple spaghetti ($13, $9).

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Though new, ie is already among the most welcoming restaurants in the Twin Cities. Design elements like the large, open kitchen contribute to the inviting vibe, and though a couple of servers had trouble describing dishes and drinks, to their credit, they eagerly found answers to our questions. We further appreciated the entire staff’s general excitement: during brunch, we were seated next to an off-duty server and his mother. Throughout the meal, he proudly told her about the ins and outs of the menu and celebrated the restaurant’s coffee program — ie has partnered with Spyhouse Coffee Roasting Co. to train servers on the finer points of pulling espresso and frothing milk. There is always at least one trained barista on shift, and the restaurant offers Big Watt’s superb cold brew. We shared our table-neighbor and servers’ enthusiasm about ie’s coffee commitment, and we hope other restaurants will follow its lead.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The coffee program is but one example of many that highlight the Carraras’ attention to detail. We could rave, too, about the carefully constructed Boulevardier ($10, above), a citrusy and astringent cocktail of rye, Campari, vermouth and orange zest that’s worth the cost. Or we could point to the thoughtfully placed foam pads, tucked under barstools and tables, and the stylish cork wall that help add noise-reduction to the open, almost sparse dining areas, or about the creatively repurposed farmhouse details that help give a nod to rustic Italian without teetering into “shabby chic,” Pottery Barn overkill. With such fastidious focus on the whole dining experience, the Carraras and their team have created an inviting, excellent restaurant that’s a fantastic addition to the Nokomis neighborhood.

James Norton contributed to this review.

The article has been modified to correct the spelling of the owners’ last name, which is Carrara, not Carrera, and the chef’s last name, which is now Miller, rather than Cornelius.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

ie Italian Eatery
Italian Food in South Minneapolis
Rating: ★★★☆ (excellent)

4724 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis
612.223.8504
HOURS:
Mon-Thu 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Fri-Sat 4 p.m.-midnight
Brunch Sat & Sun 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
OWNERS / CHEF: Eric and Vanessa Carrara / Stephanie Miller
BAR: Full
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$22
PARKING: Lot and street
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

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About the Author

Joshua Page

Joshua Page became fascinated with food as a young latchkey cook in Southern California. He developed a passion for eating out while working in “the industry” in college and procrastinating (and accruing debt) as a graduate student. Now a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, Joshua also loves to write— when it’s not about crime, law, and punishment, his musings are about Twin Cities eateries.

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3 Comments

  1. Max Hailperin 01/23/2016

    Our experience on 2016-01-23 was quite different, to the extent that we came away with a $25 gift card. (Thanks!) At one point — the chocolate torte — we were literally comparing your photo with the reality on our plate, trying to imagine how they could be the same dish. Ours was broad and flat, as though in crossing the brownie and souffle, the souffle had been left out. And then to make up for it, an enormous mound of sweetened whipped cream was on top, not the neat scoop you showed. Nor was that the first disappointment of the evening. I don’t doubt it was as good as you say — you’ve got photographic proof your experience was different — but they clearly need to work on consistent execution.

    • Max Hailperin 09/04/2016

      Update: Returning on 2016-09-04, we had a much more satisfactory experience.

  2. Meh McMeh 02/21/2016

    Like the previous commenter, we were disappointed. Our skepticism began upon arrival. As we pulled in with high expectations, the marquee read, “we will feed you” and that happened…we were fed. But not well. The hosts (three of them for some reason) seemed bewildered by the fact that there were three of us and we did not have a reservation. They offered push two tables together in an almost empty restaurant (because 4 tops are unheard of, apparently). For the ten minutes this took we were invited to get a drink at the bar. This would have been fine had the bartender not ignored us after an overly verbose presentation of the menu. Finally we were seated and treated to syrupy cocktails, overcooked chicken, and boar that tasted suspiciously like ordinary pork. Don’t even get me started on the unmassaged kale salad! After three mains and three sides we felt that we had given them plenty of chances at redemption. When the server commented that the desert was the best thing on the menu, it was all I could do not to say, “I think I’ll just go to DQ.”