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

Red River Kitchen at City House in Saint Paul

Red River Kitchen at City House
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

If you walk to Red River Kitchen at City House (at 258 Mill Street) from Downtown St. Paul, consider it a self-guided tour of the past and present of “the most livable city in America,” culminating at a historic and picturesque site that you (maybe) never knew existed. And then eat delicious food.

Walk past the under-restoration Palace Theater, with its optimistic signs promising a 2016 reopening. See Mickey’s Diner and the mysterious Original Coney Island Tavern, which was most recently open for two days in February 2016. Pass through Rice Park on your way to the Science Museum, where you’ll take the elevator (no admission necessary) to the Mississippi River flood plain. A short distance away, you’ll see your destination: a decommissioned grain elevator, known as City House, poking its tower up from behind some recently completed apartment buildings. Cross the tracks and Shepard Road, pass the fountains that look like the uprights of a collapsed bridge, and turn right when you get to the path next to the river. You’ll see the Red River Kitchen trailer (mostly blue and parked next to the Mississippi River) up ahead.

Red River Kitchen interior
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

The setting is stunning. The grain elevator’s cavernous warehouse has been faithfully restored. Glass garage doors blur the line between indoors and outdoors and offer Instagram-worthy views of the Mighty Miss and Harriet Island across the way. Gigantic ferns hang from the rafters over high-top and picnic tables. About half the warehouse is reserved for games — beanbag toss sits out all day and other games come out to play in the evening. Signage explains the history and workings of the place and is well worth reading. Because this is parkland and water flows nearby, the place is vaguely reminiscent of Sea Salt at Minnehaha Park.

Brought to you by Matty O’Reilly of Republic and JD Fratzke (chef / owner of Strip Club Meat and Fish and Saint Dinette), the endeavor began (prior to Fratzke’s involvement) a few summers ago as a food truck. It’s named for an ox-cart trail that ran from Winnipeg (hence the Red River) to the Twin Cities. There is a kitchen in the warehouse, but it is used mostly for prep. Everything you order comes out of the trailer. City House is on the flood plain of the Mississppi, so if the water rises, they can just hitch up the kitchen and drive away.

This permanently parked mobile kitchen is sending out some good food. We tried the Kielbasa ($9) with kimchee on a brat bun. The fluffy griddled bun and the toothsome dog were well matched, but the kimchee felt out of place. It was funky, sour, and flavorful, as good kimchee is, but it overwhelmed the affair.

mahi mahi taco
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

Tacos with mahi mahi ($7 for two) were a solid selection, especially for the price. Single corn tortillas cradled fingers of grilled fish topped with pineapple salsa with roasted corn, onion, and pepper. The tortilla brought charred flavor, the fish was meaty, and the salsa added tropical sweetness.

Republic Uptown, Papa’s Pizza, Town Hall Tap Bowling, Parka, and more

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

August’s winner: Jane Cracraft of St. Louis Park

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Republic (opens this fall)

3001 Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis

The new Uptown location of Republic is going to have around 45-52 tap beers available. The existing Republic on the West Bank has 54 taps.

So when the new one opens in late fall, owner Matty O’Reilly (above) will have around 100 beers to play with.

“I might be able to get more adventurous, because I don’t want the beer lists to mirror each other,” he said. “This one will look a lot different than Seven Corners.”

The beer list may differ, but overall the new Republic will stick to the same things that have helped the original be successful: solid food, a dazzling drink selection, and a knowledgeable staff.

One big difference, though, is that the Uptown Republic is in an even higher-profile location: the former Independent at Lake and Hennepin. Ringed on two sides by giant windows overlooking the intersection, Republic intends to become a mainstay from lunchtime on.

“The Independent and The Smiling Moose, the tenants here before us, had a very night-time, dark focus,” O’Reilly said. “With the vibrant corner and all the natural light, we actually have an opportunity to see lunch, happy hour, and the dinner crowd as well as the late night.”

The food will initially be similar to Republic’s theme of burgers and small plates, but the Uptown crowd may dictate a menu expansion. O’Reilly was happily describing the massive kitchen he inherited from the Independent, and said it would allow Republic’s menus to expand as needed.

“If we end up getting a really solid dinner crowd, we’ll start adding some entrees and sections on the menu that we’ve considered: more cured meats, charcuterie, flatbreads,” he said. “We can use ingredients we’re already using, but in a different setting.”

Another notable aspect of the new Republic is an ongoing firkin program. The bar will be equipped with two, and at all times at least one cask beer will be available, giving patrons a way to experience the naturally carbonated firkin beers that can taste vastly different than traditional kegs.

Republic will offer a cocktail program, which is also being rolled out at the West Bank location next week. “We have some good whiskies, and we even have a Scottish guy on staff who helped us put a Scotch program together,” O’Reilly said.

“Not a single neon sign will hang here and not a single TV. No unnecessary use of electricity. Our menu is literally just a piece of paper, but those words are what’s getting people in the door. Nothing makes me more satisfied than that.”

O’Reilly is hoping to open the new Republic in mid-November.

Papa’s Pizza (now closed)

4159 Thomas Ave N, Minneapolis

Some sad news for North Minneapolis: Papa’s Pizza and Deli has closed. Open for nearly a decade, the restaurant was a staple of the Victory neighborhood and known for its hand-tossed pies and East Coast-influenced Italian fare. It was one of the first restaurants in town to serve Surly beer, brewed in nearby Brooklyn Center.

Town Hall Tap (in development)

5019 34th Ave S, Minneapolis

The Town Hall Brewery keeps chugging along. It’s expanding its current brewing system at the original West Bank location, and the offshoot Town Hall Tap at 48th and Chicago is going strong.

Now, there’s a plan afoot to renovate the Skylane Bowling building and turn it into a Town Hall Tap. The food and beer menus would be similar to the existing Tap, but with bowling. Exciting stuff.

2011 Year in Review: Notable Openings and Closings

Readers: Win Heavy Table pint glasses

The Tap loves restaurant tips from readers, so we’re awarding a Heavy Table pint glass to the best tipster each month. The Tap is the metro area’s comprehensive restaurant buzz roundup, so if you see a new or newly shuttered restaurant, or anything that’s “coming soon,” email Tap editor Jason Walker at jason@heavytable.com.

November’s winner: Matthew Ayres of Minneapolis

Year in Review 2011: Notable Openings

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Tilia: Steven Brown’s Linden Hills charmer is the ideal neighborhood restaurant. Kids at Tilia each get a little toy kit as well as a thoughtful menu: stir-fried shrimp, buttery noodles, cream of tomato soup. Adults enjoy delectables like potted meat and a melt-in-your-mouth reuben while pondering 21 tap beers. Coupled with Cafe Twenty Eight (see below) it was a one-two punch few neighborhoods anywhere could match.

Breakfast and lunch at Sun Street Breads in Minneapolis
Katie Cannon / Heavy Table

Sun Street Breads: Solveig Tofte’s biscuit-heavy bakery already feels like an old friend. Her comfortable interior, creative sandwiches and breakfasts, and skillfully made breads create nothing but sheer happiness, and the coffee and beer selection isn’t bad, either. Sun Street recently began dinner service, too.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

Harriet Brewing: Owner Jason Sowards opened his brewery on Minneapolis’ Minnehaha Ave in early 2011, and Harriet has already garnered significant attention throughout the metro beer scene. Harriet’s flagship Westside IPA leads the brewery’s Belgian-influenced roster, and Sowards has begun introducing innovative seasonal and specialty beers. A growing list of over 40 bars and restaurants offer Harriet on tap, and growlers are available from Wednesday-Saturday at the brewery.

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

The Bachelor Farmer: Eric and Andrew Dayton opened the most talked-about restaurant in town in late summer, earning great reviews and packing the house for chef Paul Berglund’s menu of Nordic-inspired contemporary cuisine. With oft-lauded bartender Pip Hanson’s Marvel Bar downstairs, the Daytons have entered the restaurant business with a bang.

Amsterdam Bar & Hall: Downtown St. Paul got a jolt in the form of Amsterdam, a bar, restaurant, and rock club opened by the Oulmans of Minneapolis’ 331 Club. There are Dutch and Belgian beers, Dutch-inspired cocktails, small sandwiches called broodjes, and a bunch of small plates. Open late and with its strong local-music connections, Amsterdam lends a hip vibe to downtown.

Matty O’Reilly of Republic

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

It feels like Seven Corners is growing up fast. The maturation process seemed to start with the destruction of Grandma’s. Now, with Republic in the space long used by Sgt. Preston’s, the transformation is striking.

The space itself is a prime example of this changeover. Gone are the neon signs, the famous fishbowl drink, the tacky and dingy beer posters, the always-on televisions, and the ear-splittingly loud music of Sgt. Preston’s. Instead, new owners Matty O’Reilly — co-owner of the Aster and 318 Cafes — and business partner Rick Guntzel have stripped out the incoming-freshman vibe and created bar and restaurant areas that are welcoming without being snooty.

The first aspects that most patrons notice, notes O’Reilly, are actually features that have been there the whole time: stunningly beautiful stained glass, dark wood accents, and a turn-of-the-century tin ceiling. “They were hidden under all that other stuff,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, I like a dive bar as much as the next person, but I think when you see it now, you’ll get a sense of a whole different kind of place. It’s an amazing space, and we’re excited by how much we can do with it.”

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Decor changes aren’t the only shifts at Republic. Sitting in his “office,” which turns out to be any available table after lunchtime, O’Reilly is contemplating new cocktail offerings that could use hand-crafted, locally made Joia sodas. If they eventually end up on the drink menu, they’d fall in line with the uber-local focus that Republic is trying to have. O’Reilly likes to buy from area farmers, and he talks dreamily about how great it is to see a farm truck pull up, loaded with produce: “Local isn’t just a trend, it’s what happens when people do things properly. It feels good to support farms and producers that are within 100 miles of the Cities; it feels better to buy locally.”

As he chats, O’Reilly pauses only briefly to pull out buttermilk fried chicken wings served with a trio of delicious sauces, and fish tacos that are a perfect balance of spice and flavor. Who needs fishbowls now?

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Other selections include a Serrano ham appetizer with honey butter and date reduction, and entrees like grass-fed beef burgers with garlic confit and aioli, and poached eggs with squash and potato hash. O’Reilly aims to keep prices accessible, putting the “pub” of Republic in the mix. Pub food, he believes, shouldn’t be pricey, and the menu reflects that. Except for the hangar steak ($17), all of the entrees, burgers, sandwiches, and salads are under $10.

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Still in the works is the music to go with the food. About a third of the restaurant’s space is being readied for local acts, and O’Reilly says the lineup will likely be bluegrass, jazz, and even hip-hop, with acts that are solo, duets, or trios. When no one is performing, the (not deafening) background music in the bar and dining area comprises strictly of local music.

Although Republic is drawing a nice-sized clientele of diners, not everyone was happy to see Sgt. Preston’s depart, even though the restaurant had been challenged enough in recent years to change its name to Preston’s Urban Pub. “There have been some people talking about what we were taking away,” O’Reilly says. “They’re nostalgic for the fishbowls, or the feel of the place. They’ve kind of acted like it was a hostile takeover.”

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

But the transaction was amiable, and the old owners even stop in sometimes to voice their approval. Plus, the old Sgt. Preston’s sign is still on top of the building, since that name is used for the apartments above the restaurants.

Growing up doesn’t have to mean leaving the past behind, after all. In fact, with Republic’s remodel and back-to-basics local food, it’s a demonstration that giving a strong nod toward history can make for a promising future.

“Because of the university, we’ll basically have a new set of patrons every five years,” says O’Reilly. “It’ll be cool to see how we evolve, too, while staying consistent in our mission.”

Kate N.G. Sommers / Heavy Table

Republic
221 Cedar Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55454
612.338.6146
Open May-October
HOURS: Daily, 11am-1am
OWNERS: Matty O’Reilly and Rick Guntzel
BAR: Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $6-17
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / No