The telltale signs are all there.
The bar has been emptied of liquor and glassware. The walls have been stripped of artworks. A Realtor’s lockbox hangs from a rear door.
Still, there’s no actual “Closed” sign posted anywhere at Al Vento (5001 34th Av. S., Mpls.), and the restaurant’s social media accounts remain quiet. But the 15-year-old restaurant has quietly called it quits.
It’s a shame. Chef/owner Jonathan Hunt created a model neighborhood restaurant, one that not only served its surrounding neighbors but drew diners from across the Twin Cities.
Back in 2004, Hunt, a veteran of the former Pane Vino Dolce, took over – and improved upon -- a short-lived gem, Marimar.
It was an immediate hit. Al Vento (Italian for “to the wind”) was one of three restaurants named that year’s Restaurant of the Year by the Star Tribune, a trio of neighborhood bistros that also included the now-departed Corner Table and A Rebours.
Regulars will fondly recall the four-course, $20 Tuesday date night, the cozy all-season porch/patio, the well-made pastas and pizzas and the reasonably priced, all-Italian wine list.
Hunt went on to launch two other restaurants. Rinata, which is still cooking at 25th and Hennepin in Uptown Minneapolis, opened in 2008. In 2012, Hunt turned to the Bryn Mawr neighborhood and opened Sparks, which had a six-year run; the space is now occupied by La Mesa.