As Cossetta Italian Market and Pizzeria celebrates 100 years in downtown St. Paul, the owner plans a $10 million makeover that would substantially expand the landmark restaurant.
For two years, Dave Cossetta has worked with chef-researchers at an East Side kitchen to develop what he believes will lead to an unparalleled pastry kitchen, sublime focaccia and sandwiches made from on-the-spot baked bread and roasted meats. The plans include a substantial "rosticceria," or prepared foods section, for take-home meals. To make Cossetta a one-stop shop, the owner wants to put a wine store in the basement.
"I'm passionate about this brand," said Cossetta, whose great grandfather, Michael Cossetta, started the family business in 1911 with a little market on the nearby corner of Chestnut Street and Ryan Avenue. "We're developing what I think is something pretty extraordinary."
Cossetta plans to double the seating area, triple the size of the food market, expand the menu and add a rooftop restaurant. The current building would be remodeled and additional space would be built on the Cossetta parking lot on the corner of W. 7th Street and Chestnut. He plans a pedestrian-friendly presence of large windows and sidewalk seating.
Cossetta is negotiating with the city's Planning and Economic Development Department for a possible $2 million under the Rebuild St. Paul jobs program. The project won city endorsement last year so City Hall approval already is in place.
Cossetta and city planners remain in closed-door talks on details. "We're not sure what Dave's plans are today or whether he's going to use our financing," said Cecile Bedor, the city's planning and economic development director.
But Cossetta said he has contracts out for bid and is "hopefully optimistic" that construction will begin in July. He cites Balducci's in New York City as his inspiration for his bustling eatery within a block of the Xcel Energy Center that moved to its current location in 1984. Cossetta hopes to keep the restaurant open through the expansion, which he aims to complete by year's end.
Council Member Dave Thune, who represents the ward, described the plan as awesome. "Cossetta's is already a destination. This redoubles all of that," Thune said.
Cossetta doesn't need to expand beyond land he already owns, saying he still has plenty of parking in an adjacent lot.
Reducing waiting time for customers is a goal, but there's much more. Designs call for an open-air restaurant on the third level high above the street, rooms available for special events and the top Italian wine cellar in the upper Midwest. Cossetta plans to add an espresso bar and more homemade gelato. Then there's "the panzarotti," fried-filled pastries that the staff has been perfecting at the research kitchen, that Cossetta hopes will become as popular as the pizza and pastas. He's also proud of the arancini, fried-rice balls, his cooks have developed. "We really want to make it an experience."
Not included in the plans: intimidating prices. "I'm not a high-end kind of guy," Cossetta said. "I'm a regular Joe."
If or when Cossetta and the city agree on terms for the $2 million deal, the City Council will need to vote, and no vote is scheduled. But planning spokeswoman Janelle Tummel said there is no deadline.
Although the $10 million pricetag is an eye-popper, Cossetta said, "All we're trying to do is expand on what we do."
Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747