Downtown Minneapolis' Eastside restaurant is getting an Italian makeover when the new EaTo launches Friday, Aug. 6. And there are some big names behind the transformation.
On the food side, the James Beard-nominated chef Jamie Malone, formerly of Grand Cafe, is continuing her consulting role at this address. (She came aboard Eastside in 2018.) Malone is collaborating with chef Matt Henrickson on a menu of pizzas, fried meats, sandwiches, salads, housemade sausages and gelato.
For drinks, cocktail dynamo Marco Zappia is crafting a menu of espresso drinks, aperitifs, digestifs, nonalcoholic cocktails and his spins on classics, such as a mandarin negroni.
Monroe Enterprises, which was behind the Grand Cafe and Eastside, remains the owner.
The opening of EaTo (it rhymes with Cheeto) will go in three phases, starting this week with a takeout window and a patio for coffee, soft-serve gelato with fried dough and the kitchen's signature item, Pizza Puffs.
"It's like Totino's pizza rolls for adults," said owner/operator Matt Monroe.
In October, the indoor dining room will launch, along with a small market for Italian goods, such as olive oil and canned tomatoes. In November, a meat counter with to-go steaks, and a bottle shop, with selections from Grand Cafe's sommelier Scarlett Carrasco, will open. Diners will be able to select wine from the shop and have it at their table. Around that same time, look for Italian steakhouse-style weekend pop-ups. Ordering will be mobile, thanks to QR codes, but staff will be heavily involved in helping diners make food and drink choices. Tipping will be replaced by a service charge, said general manager Amy Dumas.
Though Monroe's not calling it a food hall, the multiple-concepts-under-one-roof idea was inspired by Le District, a multi-station French market and cafe in New York City, he said. Comparisons to the larger Italian food destination Eataly are inevitable, he added. "I love Eataly and it's obviously Italian," he said. "But this is a smaller format, more intimate spaces, with a definite curated retail component to it."
Eastside first opened in 2015 in the Latitude 45 residential building in the newly coined "East Town" neighborhood, with chef Remy Pettus at the helm of the Ryan Burnet-owned restaurant. Malone — with former Parasole CEO Dennis Monroe — took over three years later. The restaurant in its last iteration has been closed since the start of the pandemic, but Malone and company used the space, on the corner of Washington and 3rd Avenues S., for short-term takeout concepts La Pistola and Woodfire. It was also an assembly and distribution site for Malone's popular Keep it Grand kits, which packaged up take-and-make meals inspired by Grand Cafe's French menu.
The kits are on hiatus for now, though Monroe expects them to return from a different location. Some dishes from Woodfire and La Pistola (taleggio and rosemary honey pizza, occasional lobster specials) will appear at the new EaTo, and maybe Eastside's beloved smashburger.
As downtown Minneapolis gradually reopens, Monroe says it's time to create a new kind of restaurant.
"There's a lot of energy in the area, but there's nothing really around that can bring the neighborhood together, and we think this is going to create that sense of community that the area has been lacking," he said.
Malone sees the new venture has having a dual purpose.
"When we open up the inside, we want people to stop and chat with us and each other, but to also be able to take away ingredients for meals with no more than five ingredients that they can prepare at home," she said.