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

Heavy Table Hot Five: Sep. 23-29

hotfive-flames

Each Friday, this list will track five of the best things Heavy Table’s writers, editors, and photographers have recently bitten or sipped. Have a suggestion for the Hot Five? Email editor@heavytable.com.

shepherd-song-banner-ad-horiz-3The Hot Five is a weekly feature created by the Heavy Table and supported by Shepherd Song Farm.

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James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

1-new - oneBanh Chao Quay from Ha Tien
The Banh Chao Quay at Ha Tien, a Vietnamese-by-way-of-St. Paul spin on a classic Chinese doughnut, is a modern miracle. Graced with a lightly crisp exterior and a chewy, tender interior that directly recall a classic beignet, this pastry — plus a bit of powdered sugar and some coffee — would make a lovely breakfast for three to four people, for $1.59. And it’s kind of marvelous to look at, too.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from Instagram by James Norton]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

2-new - twoCrispy Shrimp with Sticky Rice by PinKU via Local Crate
We didn’t know how close we’d come to a PinKU dish when we started making this Local Crate Crispy Shrimp with Sticky Rice meal. Despite being developed in conjunction with the restaurant, a recipe can lose quite a bit in translation. But by the time we were done grating radishes and frying shrimp, we had a spot-on rendition of one of the most craveable entries in the realm, a harmonious mix of tender rice, lightly crunchy shrimp, spicy mayo, scallions, and black sesame seeds. Now to reverse engineer this sucker so it’s available whenever we want it.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from Instagram by James Norton]

Becca Dilley / Heavy Table
Becca Dilley / Heavy Table

3-new - threeSzechuan Chicken Dumplings at Tea House
We’ve raved up the best-in-the-metro kung pao at Tea House before, but on a recent return trip, it was the house-made Szechuan Chicken Dumplings that won our hearts. Tender and delicate with a pronounced but balanced lingering heat (plus a Szechuan peppercorn buzz) and complemented by green onions, these are easily among the tastiest dumplings in a city full of them. Along with Hong Kong Noodle, Tea House has shot to the top of our chart for Chinese-American food.
[Last Week on the Hot Five: #3 | Submitted from Instagram by James Norton]

red river kitchen cubano
Brenda Johnson / Heavy Table

4-new fourCubano at the Red River Kitchen at City House
Red River’s Cubano is excellent, and a pretty traditional version of the sandwich. Ham and shredded pork combine harmoniously with melted Swiss cheese, subtle mustard, and fresh pickles, all of which are surrounded by the crunchy pressed halves (buttered and browned on all sides) of a roll. Good Cubanos are hard to find, and this one is exemplary.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by Ted Held]

James Norton / Heavy Table
James Norton / Heavy Table

5-new -fiveJoia Spirit Greyhound
The new canned cocktails by Joia, makers of subtle, beautifully mixable local soda, are a light-on-their-feet tour de force — well balanced and easy to sip. Our favorite was the Greyhound, which expressed its grapefruit content mostly through aroma as opposed to an aggressive citric bite. Its finish was a mellow whisper of chamomile. And while the box touts cardamom, it’s only subtly present, and definitely not out of balance.
[Debuting on the Hot Five | Submitted from a review by James Norton]

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.

Food Truck Update: Red River Kitchen, Cafe Racer

John Garland / Heavy Table
John Garland / Heavy Table

‘Tis officially the season to eat on the street, and our efforts to update our Street Food Directory ramp up once again. This week we encounter a newbie with only a week under its belt and catch up with a seasoned veteran.

Are there trucks you’ve seen around that we haven’t covered? Ones with a curious menu you’d rather us try first? Email churn@heavytable.com and we’ll get to work.

Red River Kitchen

We’ve always appreciated the bar food at both Republic locations, because it never tries to be anything it’s not. Republic has always been a reliable standby for a burger or a taco — ones that won’t cause culinary shock waves but don’t ever leave you disappointed.

So count us happy to see that same sensibility has transferred to their new food truck. Red River Kitchen’s menu seems designed with flexibility in mind to suit multiple venues. At Artcrank, they were slinging fries and cheese curds, alongside tacos, burgers, and chicken chorizo sausage. The next morning, at the Linden Hills Farmers market, we spied them with breakfast tacos (scrambled eggs over romesco potatoes) breakfast sandwiches, and that same chicken chorizo now featured in a breakfast poutine.