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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
ie Italian Eatery
Italian Food in South Minneapolis
4724 Cedar Ave, Minneapolis
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
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: Yes / Yes
ENTREE RANGE: $8-$22
PARKING: Lot and street
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited