Delicata in Como, St. Paul

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly have been busy. Between summer 2016 and March 2017, they opened two restaurants, Red River Kitchen and Bar Brigade. And now they’ve added Delicata, a casual Italian eatery in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul helmed by Noah Barton (former executive chef at Chino Latino). The newest member of the family has a lot in common with Punch Neapolitan Pizza. Like that local institution, Delicata offers a concise, pizza-focused menu emphasizing fresh ingredients in a family-friendly environment. And like the newer Punch locations, Delicata is counter-service only.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

But this newbie isn’t a knockoff. It adds unique twists to familiar dishes, often with great success (though limited, at times, by poor execution, but more on that in a bit). Take the Antipasto Platter ($12), for example. With sweet, plumped grapes, spicy giardiniera, savory gigante beans, salty cured meats and olives, and crunchy almonds, it’s a delicious adventure in flavor and texture.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Another starter, the Grilled Artichokes ($7) is a refreshing departure from standard artichoke dips: A quartet of smoky hearts pairs brilliantly with bright, nutty romesco sauce. Heaped on expertly bronzed crostini, the “dip” is spot on. The Big Mixed Salad ($12) also excellently updates a classic: We’d be thrilled if pickled onions, gigante beans, prosciutto, sliced egg, and marinated tomatoes became staples in pizza parlor salads.

Several pizzas showcase the Delicata team’s creativity and commitment to killer ingredients. The humbly named Pork Sausage ($12) is one of the most satisfying pies we can recall. It’s piled high with zesty meat, pillowy ricotta, and tender fennel slices; vibrant oregano and punchy romesco pull the aggressive elements into a cohesive whole.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

The Delicata Pizza, made with the eponymous winter squash ($12, top) is another inventive eye-opener. We were skeptical that combining naturally sweet squash and balsamic vinegar with salty prosciutto and blue cheese would work. But where we expected a power surge, instead we got a great balance of sweet and salty (if perhaps a bit too much blue cheese). A veggie option ($13, above) with artichoke, spinach, feta, and olives on rich red sauce doesn’t break new ground, but it’s as tasty as the more adventurous combos.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Delicata’s short list of desserts distances the restaurant from the pack. We’d travel far and wide for the Coconut Cake ($6). As one of our dining partners exclaimed, “That’s what dessert should look like — just stupid good.” Topped with small peaks of light meringue, the cake is moist, airy, and just the right amount of sweet. Slightly burnt shredded coconut is the secret not-secret ingredient, adding depth and texture to an already great slice of cake.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Both types of gelato we tried — pistachio and strawberry ($5 each) — held their own against the pastry. A little less dense and a little creamier than average gelato, these offerings explode with flavor. Given that Delicata bills itself as a pizza and gelato joint, we were surprised that it serves gelato from Sonny’s and Zia’s Gelato rather than make it in house.

Isabel Subtil / Heavy Table

Our excitement about Delicata’s desserts was, nonetheless, unable to smooth over the restaurant’s inconsistency. Some pizzas arrived crisp and adorned with beautiful leopard spots, while others showed up floppy and without char. Depending on the night, the Cheesy Garlic Bread ($5) was unappetizingly greasy or well-balanced and satisfying. Even the Big Mixed Salad varied visit to visit. After winning us over during on our first trip, it bombed on the second — limp greens seemed like they’d been dressed earlier in the evening rather than to order.

Delicata has the right ingredients to become an excellent neighborhood restaurant: a friendly vibe, comfortable indoor seating, a spacious patio, interesting yet approachable food, and rosé on tap. Given Fratzke’s and O’Reilly’s respective track records, we’re confident that Delicata will fix its consistency issues and, with a little luck, enjoy Punch-style success.

Jane Rosemarin edited this story; James Norton has worked closely with Noah Barton at Chef Camp.

Delicata
Pizzeria and Gelateria in the Como neighborhood of St. Paul

651.756.8123
1341 Pascal St
St. Paul, MN 55108
CHEF/OWNERS: Noah Barton / J.D. Fratzke and Matty O’Reilly
BAR: Beer and wine
VEGETARIAN/VEGAN: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $9-$14
NOISE LEVEL: Moderate
HOURS: Mon-Fri 4 p.m.-10 p.m.
Sat and Sun 10 a.m.-10 p.m. (Brunch 10 a.m.-2 p.m., beginning Sept 23)
PARKING: Street

Coconut White Cake at Crave

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

On a recent visit to the Mall of America, we suffered a kind of low blood sugar, which while not medically serious did put a hitch in our get-along — suddenly the crowds were insufferable, the halls interminable. We ducked into Crave for a snack, only to find more of the same: a half dozen TV screens and the Friday night band. It seemed there would be no relief for our sensory overload.  We ate our appetizers with glazed eyes and ordered dessert almost without thinking.

And so it was an utter surprise when a brilliant slice of coconut white cake ($8) arrived at our table and, for a few fleeting moments, transported us to a quiet, happy place.

Katie Cannon / Heavy Table
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Here is what we saw when we gazed into our cake: snow. The crumb resembled the kind of snow that falls in big, fat flakes and blows so slow and ponderous that it seems almost without provenance, as if it might just as easily have swirled up from the ground as down from the sky.

On our forks, the white cake had all the delicacy and air of angel food cake, but on our palates it was surprisingly moist and tender. Its flavor was pleasantly mellow, not too sweet, and tasted more of vanilla — and perhaps a wee bit of almond? — than coconut. A whipped cream frosting sat very nicely on top; not too heavy and not so tasty that it overwhelmed the cake, and it featured bits of shaved, fresh coconut that provided some necessary texture in all that fluffy goodness.

When we emerged from the cake, refreshed and in a better frame of mind, the kindly server informed us that it’s available at all of the Crave outlets, but is actually baked by the Delicious Cafe & Grill in Minnetonka. As we gathered up our bags and jackets, we made a mental note to visit the bakery, and then we reluctantly turned our bodies toward the door, thanking the server — just as grateful as could be — when we left.