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Tough week for Mpls. eateries gets tougher as Cafe Levain closes

It has been a tough week for neighborhood restaurants in south Minneapolis.

On Monday, Trattoria Tosca, the Italian restaurant affiliated with the Linden Hills outlet of the Turtle Bread Co., closed its doors.

Today, Turtle Bread owner Harvey McLain pulled the plug on his other full service operation, Cafe Levain (pictured, above, in a 2007 Star Tribune file photo), part of the Turtle's 48th-and-Chicago outlet. 

"Regrettably, we have closed Cafe Levain after 14 good years in the Nokomis neighborhood," reads the message on the restaurant's website. "We do not anticipate that it will reopen. Thank you for you patronage. Sorry for any inconvenience. If you have gift certificates, they can be redeemed for food, merchandise or cash at any of the three Turtle Breads."

Levain holds a special place in the city's recent culinary history. When it opened in 2003, under the direction of chef Stewart Woodman, the restaurant received four stars from the Star Tribune (that's the restaurant, above, during the Woodman era, in a 2003 Star Tribune file photo).

A year later, chef Steven Brown replaced Woodman, and the restaurant received an unprecedented second four-star Star Tribune review (that's Brown, above, in a 2004 Star Tribune file photo).

Brown's era ended three years later, when McLain decided to reboot, steering the restaurant from a fine-dining destination to a neighborhood bistro."I'm thinking of calling it, `Peasant Food Only,' " he told the Star Tribune at the time. 

Instead, he called it Cafe Levain and installed 22-year-old chef Adam Vickerman (above, far right, in a 2009 Star Tribune file photo) in the kitchen. Vickerman earned a loyal following, and ran the restaurant until last year, leaving to join the Seward Co-op.

Since bad news frequently reveals itself in threes, here's the third: Pilgrimage Cafe chef/owner Craig Ball is calling it quits, and soon.

"Pilgrimage will be permanently closing by the end of this weekend," reads the message on the restaurant's Facebook page. "We would like to thank everyone for supporting us over the last two years, we've truly enjoyed it. But before that happens, we have some food and wine to clear out. Come help us!"

Trattoria Tosca in Linden Hills closes after 10 years

Goodbye, Trattoria Tosca.

A message on the restaurant's website reads: "Regrettably, we have closed Trattoria Tosca after 10 good years in the Linden Hills neighborhood. We do not anticipate that it will reopen. Thank you for you patronage."

Tosca's original chef was 24-year-old Adam Vickerman. If that names looks familiar, it's because the talented Vickerman was also the longtime chef at McLain's other full-service restaurant, Cafe Levain.

Here's a welcome bit of news: owner for anyone holding gift certificates to the restaurant, owner Harvey McLain will redeem them for food, merchandise or cash at any of his three Turtle Bread locations. One is next door to the shuttered Tosca, another is at 48th St. and Chicago Av. and the third is at 34th St. and 42 Av. S., all in Minneapolis.