Change is coming to Figlio (3001 Hennepin Av. S., Minneapolis, www.figlio.com). On Sept. 19, Calhoun Square's dining grande dame is ending its impressive 25-year run. Parent company Parasole Restaurant Holdings isn't giving up on the prime Hennepin-and-Lake real estate, however. Come Thanksgiving, the company (the hitmaker behind Manny's Steakhouse, Salut Bar Americain, Burger Jones, the Good Earth and others) will unveil its latest baby, which Phil Roberts, the company's creative engine, is shorthanding as "more Italian than Figlio."
Parasole isn't revealing the name just yet, but it's dropping more hints ("Cat Ciao," "About to Meow" and "Scratch Italian" are but a few of the teasers that have popped up in various media) than Gov. Pawlenty has regarding his ambitions for higher office. Like T-Paw's stepped-up out-of-state profile, the activity is certainly creating a buzz.
"It's funny, the lengths that people are going to in order to find out the name," said Parasole corporate chef Todd Bolton with a laugh.
Here's one word that won't be in the title: Trattoria. "If you call it a trattoria, that pressures you to become a 100 percent slave to Italian," said Roberts. "We want some license to step off the box, to have some wiggle room."
Translation: Don't be surprised to encounter a burger ("maybe one with arugula and a slab of Gorgonzola," said Roberts). The menu will emphasize seafood, in pastas and as entrees ("there's going to be a Sicilian influence, but we don't know how far we're going to take that," said Roberts). Another major feature: meant-to-be-shared portions, from family-style dinners (chicken cacciatore, seafood risotto) to plus-size appetizer platters (meatballs, cold antipasti). The wood-burning oven will turn out focaccia pizzas, and a dozen or so small plates could include octopus hot off the kitchen's wood-fired grill, chicken liver pâté on crostini or one of several dressed-up Italian cheeses.
Matt Kempf (formerly of A Rebours, currently at Figlio) will run the kitchen. The space is getting a top-to-bottom makeover, inspired by 1930s industrial Italian design. "We want it to be everything you liked about Figlio, and more," said Parasole president/CEO Dennis Monroe.
Son of Figlio isn't Parasole's only story. The company is formalizing plans for Cafeteria, its 2010 breakfast/lunch/dinner/late-night concept that's slated to go into the spot next door to Figlio, in the Calhoun Square expansion currently under construction. The menu? Nothing's been carved in stone, but it's looking like "pure comfort food," said Monroe. "We're going to have some fun with this," added Roberts, mentioning, for example, the renaissance of that long-gone and much-missed restaurant staple known as the rotating pie case, as well as a rooftop patio and an indoor-outdoor dining room fronted by glass garage doors.
Across the street at Chino Latino (2916 Hennepin Av. S., www.chinolatino.com), a large private dining room is going into an adjacent spot that once housed an eyewear shop. And at Pittsburgh Blue (11900 N. Main St., Maple Grove, www.pittsburghbluesteaks.com), the company is working on a lunch menu that launches Sept. 28 and is remaking the restaurant's roomy bar into the Tavern, featuring a moderately priced menu of burgers, sandwiches and blue-plate specials.Around town
There's a new chef at restaurant Max (215 S. 4th St., Minneapolis, www.therestaurantmax.com): he's Kevin Kathman, formerly of Tarbell's in Phoenix.
The Seward Co-op's former home (2111 E. Franklin Av., Minneapolis) is on its way to becoming a second outpost of Koyi Sushi (122 N. 4th St., Minneapolis, www.koyisushi.com).