(John Garland co-wrote this story.)
Broders’ Pasta Bar (along with its deli across the street) in Southwest Minneapolis is a well-oiled machine that serves up high-quality, reasonably priced pasta dishes that keep the crowds coming back. So, we were optimistic that Terzo, the Broder family’s new wine bar, wouldn’t disappoint. And it sure didn’t. Open just a few weeks, the family’s third venture is already firing on all cylinders and will likely steal clientele from its popular sibling across the street. Or, more likely, it will just draw more people to the corner of 50th and Penn to sate cravings for Italy’s finest.
The Broders completely renovated the space formerly occupied by Pierre’s Bistro to create a simultaneously cosmopolitan and rustic environment with Terzo (named, we were told, both because it’s the third of their outposts and for the three Broder sons). Casual observers will enjoy the thoughtful and comfortable decor, which allows a view of the gleaming charcuterie station, the long bar, and a wine cellar with beautiful doors made of salvaged wood, but true oenophiles are sure to have the creeping sensation that they are surrounded by referential items. That gorgeous driftwood on the wall is, upon closer inspection, dried grapevines. The delicate light fixtures and metal orbs hanging from the ceiling are, naturally, wine decanters and barrel ties. Water glasses at the table are wine bottles, lopped off to serve a new purpose. Like the last scene of The Usual Suspects, all the pieces seem to fall into place at once. When you start looking, it’s all wine.
Indeed, the wine program is as distinctive as the decor. General Manager Charlie Broder (above) curates the entirely Italian bottle list. Like Terzo’s menu and overall vibe, the list slants heavily toward Northern Italy. Over 40 Barolos and 17 Barberas from Piedmont make up a solid chunk of the couple-100-label strong cellar. There are plenty of super-Tuscans and Brunellos, as well as several French grape blends for those who prefer the comfort of a Cabernet. Still, we’d advise letting Terzo’s well-trained staff introduce you to some of the lesser-known grape varieties that have made Italy such a unique patchwork of regional winemaking.
Along with the bottles, Terzo features over 50 wines by the glass, nearly twice as many as some other very good wine bars in Minneapolis. They’re mostly in the $8-12 range, with a few good values on offer. All wines by the glass can also be purchased in a half-bottle carafe or a half-glass pour if you want to sample more widely. We loved the Saladini Pilastri Rosso Piceno ($6), a fruity red Tuscan blend that’s perfect for charcuterie sampling; the 2011 Lugana Ca’ Lojera ($9), a spectacularly easy sip full of tropical fruits; and the brilliant Inama Soave Classico ($15) that lately has people talking.
While less expansive than the wine list, Terzo’s menu is impressive nonetheless. Along with a revolving lineup of top-flight cheeses and cured meats, there are several bruschetta, vegetable, and seafood sides, and six entree-sized selections to choose from. Chef Thomas Broder’s refreshingly unfussy dishes feature exceptional ingredients in simple yet proficient preparations. Take, for example, herbed goat cheese stuffed Calabrian peppers ($5). Spicy, slightly sweet, fire-engine red peppers are sliced open, seeded, and filled with creamy chevre. Thin ribbons of celery add freshness and reduced balsamic vinegar brings richness. It’s a delicious, attractive snack.
Several other antipasti were very good and, with minor tweaks, would be great. Fried baby artichokes ($9) served with lemon aioli, almond, and mint, were golden brown, slightly crispy (unctuous but not oily), and delectable. We could’ve popped at least a dozen of these suckers — especially if they came with a few lemon wedges (although there’s lemon in the aioli, we pined to squeeze some actual juice over the dish). A chilled seafood salad with fennel ($10) was refreshing, but, like the chokes, needed more acid to brighten it up, and a couple scallops needed a little less cooking. Pistachio-crusted frog legs ($5) were tasty, but the nutty coating threatened to overpower the succulent meat.
The main dish we sampled, the pecorino flan ($15), left us panting for more. The flan was lighter than its namesake: Nearly a souffle, it was sturdy on the outside but all savory custard inside. It was served with a fava bean puree, perfectly cooked fava beans (firm enough to still be an assertive vegetable next to the creamy flan), roasted morel mushrooms, pickled red onion, and tiny cubes of pecorino, softened amidst the warm veggies. Rather than feeling like a collection of side dishes, as so many vegetarian entrees do, this was a balanced, carefully constructed dish, both gorgeous and satisfying.
For dessert, Terzo adds its own twists to familiar dishes. We loved the ricotta panna cotta ($8), in which the cheese transforms the vanilla bean custard just enough to distinguish this take from others served around town. Macerated strawberries, crisp rhubarb, mint, and sour lime sorbet added a jolt to the comfort of a brilliant panna cotta, making this a winning summer dessert. Although we enjoyed the affogato ($6) — Bull Run espresso poured over vanilla gelato — the proportions were a bit off; a woefully small scoop of gelato quickly melted into a double shot of espresso, leaving us with a glass of sweet coffee soup.
Only rarely does a restaurant shine in all departments — food and drink, service, and atmosphere — so quickly. The Broder family’s attention to detail and commitment to quality are inspiring, sure to keep destination diners and neighborhood regulars queuing up for years to come. If there’s a downside to Terzo, it’s that a tab can run up quickly if you keep the wine flowing and make a meal of the small plates. But, in the end, it’s well worth the expense.
Terzo Vino Bar
Wine Bar and Small Plates in Southwest Minneapolis
2221 W 50th Street, Minneapolis, MN 55419
Sun-Mon, Wed-Thu: 5pm-11pm
CHEF / OWNER: Thomas Broder / Molly Broder
RESERVATIONS / RECOMMENDED: No
BAR: Wine and Beer
VEGETARIAN / VEGAN: Yes / Limited
ENTREE PRICE: $5-18