Eric Carrara is “100% Italian,” so the name of his new casual spot in St. Paul’s Highland Park neighborhood made perfect sense to him. Due (pronounced DOO-ay) means “two” in Italian, fitting for his and his wife’s second restaurant in the Twin Cities.
But he admits that in Due’s short time open — only a couple weeks, and not even officially until the week of Aug. 17 — the pronunciation has required a bit of Italian education.
“There’s been some name training,” Carrara said. “Luckily, the neighborhood got it.”
Due is at 475 Fairview Av. S., St Paul, duefocacceria.com.
Here’s what else the neighborhood is getting: fresh focaccia bread, cheese and meat boards, spritzy aperitivo cocktails, and, eventually, a take-out counter with fresh pastas and sauces, all inside a former coffee shop (Espresso Royale).
Carrara envisions Due as the kind of place neighbors will walk to after work, have a drink and a light bite, get some takeout and walk back home for dinner. Just like in southern Italy.
“Every city has a small piazza that at 4 or 5, everybody will go out sitting around on chairs facing inward, and eating meat, cheese, sandwiches, gelati. Everyone knows everyone, everyone’s talking and laughing,” Carrara said. “They do that aperitivo hour for 2 hours, do dinner at 8 or 9 and then they go home at midnight. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Carrara added, “We thought this was the closest thing to allow that to happen.”
The 1,500-square-foot restaurant isn’t full service — in fact, most ordering will be done by kiosk (though the place isn’t entirely cashless, if that’s not your thing). And there aren’t entrees. But salads, sandwiches, soups and the boards for snacking can eaily turn into a dinner. Plus, the counter inside will eventually offer to-go portions of fresh pasta and sauces, in addition to that chewy focaccia.
Hours are limited to evenings for now, but will slowly expand until to lunchtime in the coming weeks.
The Carraras own the newly glass-walled building, which has an ample patio for summer months.
They also own ie: Italian Eatery (4724 Cedar Av., Mpls., 612-223-8504, italianeatery.com), and an adjacent space that Carrara wants to turn into another casual spot in the next year.
Yes, it’ll be Italian.
“I don’t think I’ll ever touch anything that’s not Italian,” he said.
His parents owned an Italian restaurant where he grew up in Erie, Pa. Italian entertaining is part of him.
“I think Italian culture is about creating community,” Carrara said. “And we just happen to have really good food.”