Drop in on your friendly neighborhood Italian restaurant.
When visiting the dinner-only Butcher Block, here are three dishes to keep in mind: the pork-ricotta meatballs, doused in a robust red sauce; the ravioli filled with duck confit and ricotta, and the slow-braised, fall-off-the-bone beef short ribs. There also are some decent values on the mostly Italian wine list.
- 308 E. Hennepin Av., Mpls., 612-455-1080, www.thebutcherblockrestaurant.com
Simple scratch cooking and a charming storefront setting set Carmelo's apart from the crowd. Best at lunch is the prosciutto- and basil-filled ravioli, while dinner's entree selections feature chicken five ways (the kitchen's signature dish is baked chicken topped with crab and served over angel hair pasta), veal piccata and a strip steak stuffed with roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes. Early bird diners (5 to 7 p.m.) enjoy half-price wines Monday through Thursday.
- 238 S. Snelling Av., St. Paul, 651-699-2448, www.carmelos.com
At Risotto, the namesake dish at chef/owner Gabriele Lo Pinto's Lyn-Lake restaurant deserves top billing (get the version prepared with asparagus, peas and fava beans), but the menu also features a half-dozen pastas, a few grilled meats and fish and a handful of starters, including a fragrant saffron-seasoned seafood stew. Drop in at lunch and choose from a half-dozen panini.
- 610 W Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-4338, www.risottomn.com