It’s official: 2015 is going to go down in local culinary history as the Year of the Italian Restaurant.
Two are opening next month in downtown Minneapolis: Monello launches June 1 in the Hotel Ivy, and Il Foro is coming in for a mid-June landing in the historic former Forum Cafeteria space. In Uptown, Parella is aiming for a late June/early July debut in the former Figlio spot in Calhoun Square.
And now, a block to the east, we will soon have Scena Tavern. Restaurateur Paul Dzubnar (Green Mill, Crooked Pint Ale House, Town Hall Brewery) and his operating partners are moving into a two-story space in the Lake Street side of the building that houses Coup d’etat (2943 Girard Av. S., Mpls.), with a kitchen that will run under the consulting auspices of chefs Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone.
The couple, both Sea Change vets, and both past Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef honorees, continue to plan the opening of their own restaurant, Brut (no specific site has been announced, yet). But in the meantime, they’ve been working on outside projects, including this one; they’re in the midst of hiring a chef to manage the kitchen’s day-to-day operations.
The menu will feature fresh, seasonal ingredients along the lines of prawns with black olive sea salt, basket-shaped pasta tossed with wild mushrooms and steamed clams with pork sausage.
“There’s a bunch of really nice, very simple and straightforward but exciting crudo,” said Malone, citing a lightly pounded wild Alaskan salmon finished with mustard seeds and salmon roe.
The menu will also focus on shareable dishes, including a 38-ounce porterhouse for two. “It’ll be marinated, and served with a salsa verde,” she said. “You can eat it by yourself – which I would love if you did – but you could also order it while you’re on a date, or pass it around the table with a group.”
Another plus: Anderson and Malone are channeling their energies into a substantial cheese program. “I love cheese courses,” she said. “It’s one of those things that you can share, as a group, or enjoy on your own.”
The restaurant, designed by Smart Associates of Minneapolis, will feature a round, 25-seat bar (with cocktails designed by Nick Kosevich of Bittercube), a separate crudo bar (with cocktails specifically designed to match), a watch-them-make-pasta open kitchen and a pair of patios.
"Scena is Italian for 'scene' or 'stage,’” said Dzubnar in a statement. “Our restaurant will put our dining offerings in the spotlight as we crafted our 7,500 square feet into a two-level space that puts our chefs and bartenders on center stage.”
The lunch-and-dinner restaurant will join Uptown’s growing list of late-nighters, serving to 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
As for the sudden preponderance of Italian restaurants, "I think it's great, and I have absolutely no problem with it," said Malone with a laugh. "Whatever. I guess we all think alike."
A Sept. 9 opening is the works.