New in Northeast

Laura Bonicelli didn't plan on opening a restaurant. But then opportunity knocked.

While on the lookout for a new home base for her Bonicelli Fresh Meal Delivery — which is exactly what it sounds like, a made-from-scratch, full-meal-deal home delivery operation — some friends purchased a former neighborhood corner grocery store.

Having outgrown three kitchens, Bonicelli pounced. Now she has room to spare for her seven-year-old company, and she's converting the rest of the space into two new food-related enterprises.

One will be a small store selling milk, eggs, bread and a short takeout roster, "staples that the neighbors will be able to walk over and pick up," she said.

The other will be a casual 40-seat restaurant she's calling Bonicelli Kitchen (1901 NE. Fillmore St., Mpls.,

The format: a global array of small plates.

"I like to mix and match," she said. "It could be a niçoise salad, or a fresh summer pasta plate, or mini fish tacos, or steamed buns with pulled pork, or Asian-style ribs. I tend to go back to Italian cooking — growing up with an Italian grandmother helped — so probably some risotto, or gnocchi."

The plan is to keep prices under $10. "And by small plates, I don't mean small portions," she said. Wine and beer, too.

A recent Kickstarter campaign underscored Bonicelli's built-in customer base, with 251 supporters chiming in to the tune of $60,425.

Opening? "Mid-June, ideally," she said. "But realistically? Probably July."

More Italian is headed to Uptown

It's official: 2015 is going to go down in Minneapolis culinary history as the Year of the Italian Restaurant.

Following on the news of Monello and Il Foro (both opening downtown in June) and Parella in Uptown's Calhoun Square (arriving late June/early July) comes the announcement of a another Italian restaurant, set to open Sept. 9 in Uptown.

Restaurateur Paul Dzubnar (Green Mill, Crooked Pint Ale House, Town Hall Brewery) and his operating partners are launching Scena Tavern, moving into a two-story space in the Lake Street side of the apartment building (2943 Girard Av. S., Mpls.) that also houses Coup d'état, and tapping chefs Erik Anderson and Jamie Malone as kitchen consultants.

The couple, both Sea Change vets, continue to plan the opening of their own restaurant, Brut (no specific site has been announced, yet). Meanwhile, they're hiring a chef to operate the Scena kitchen.

Their menu will feature fresh, seasonal ingredients in shareable portions: prawns with black olive sea salt, basket-shaped pasta tossed with wild mushrooms, steamed clams with pork sausage, wild Alaskan salmon finished with mustard seeds and roe, a 38-oz. porterhouse for two. A substantial cheese program, too.

The late-night restaurant, designed by Smart Associates of Minneapolis, will include 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."

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."

Rick Nelson