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More Italian — this time in Uptown — headed to Minneapolis

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.

Yes, it's National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

According to someone, somewhere, today, May 15, is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day. So why not celebrate?

Make it easy by checking out these two (relatively recent) guides to America's favorite cookie, retrieved from the Strib's archives. One is for those who prefer their chocolate chip cookies prepared by professionals; it's a where-to-buy guide to the metro area's best (find it here).

The second is for bakers, and it's a rundown of recipes that go beyond the familiar Toll House formula. Several of them require that the dough be chilled overnight, so if you're planning on preheating the oven on this actual day of days, I highly recommend going with this easy-to-prepare (and no-waiting) recipe, below.

And let's all look forward to June 2, otherwise known as National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day. Seriously, that's on the calendar.

THOMAS KELLER’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Note: Adapted from “Ad Hoc at Home” (Artisan, 2009) by Thomas Keller.

• 2 1/3 c. plus 1 tbsp. flour

• 3/4 tsp. baking soda

• 1 tsp. kosher salt

• 5 oz. 55 percent chocolate, cut into chip-size pieces (about 1 c.)

• 5 oz. 70 to 72 percent chocolate, cut into chip-size pieces (about 1 c.)

• 1/2 lb. (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, divided

• 3/4 c. granulated sugar

• 1 c. packed dark brown sugar

• 2 eggs

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Working in several batches, place chopped chocolate in a fine-mesh basket strainer and shake to remove any chocolate “dust,” discarding small fragments. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, beat half the butter until fairly smooth, about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar, brown sugar and remaining butter, and beat until mixture is light and creamy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate. Scoop dough into generous golf ball-size mounds (about 2 tablespoons) onto prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart. Bake until tops are no longer shiny, about 12 minutes, rotating baking sheets halfway through baking. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

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