Make 2013 the Year of the Neighborhood Restaurant.
Biella, the charming trattoria in downtown Excelsior, cooks with an Italian accent, although the menu doesn't hesitate to jump outside that particular framework. Drop in for a pretty salad and a sane (and sanely priced) pasta, or go big and savor multiple courses. Dinner only.
227 Water St., Excelsior, 952-474-8881,
At cozy First Course, the menu is built around, yes, a tempting list of first courses (pork ribs glazed in ginger and soy, cheeses with house-made condiments, gently fried calamari) that's supplemented by a something-for-everyone array of sandwiches, pastas and entrees (cornmeal-crusted tilapia, juicy duck breast with pureed sweet potatoes). Half-price wines, by the bottle and glass, on Tuesdays. Dinner only.
5607 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-825-6900,
Flexibility is the name of the game at Mendoberri Cafe & Wine Bar, where chef/owner Robert Ulrich caters to takeout diners, the quick-service lunch crowd and those in search of an uncomplicated and relaxing dinner. Reasonable prices, friendly service and a decent happy hour (weekdays, 4 to 6 p.m.).
730 Main St., Mendota Heights, 651-209-3270,