The restaurant: Parella, a partnership between restaurateur Michael Larson (Digby’s) and chef Todd Macdonald.
Location: The Calhoun Square space most closely associated with the 25-year home of Figlio (and its follow-up flop, Il Gatto) and empty since 2013, after the abrupt exit of short-lived Primebar.
Chef: Todd Macdonald.
His first job: Making salads at Ciatti’s in the Galleria in Edina as a high schooler. After training at the New England Culinary Institute, Macdonald cooked with starry chefs in Boston (Ken Oringer, among others) and New York City (David Bouley, Shea Gallante) and ran his own kitchens (two Italian restaurants and a high-end gastropub) before returning to his hometown with his wife, certified sommelier Mary Macdonald, to open their own restaurant. “We explored a lot of spaces, but nothing came to fruition,” said Macdonald. “By chance, we met Michael through a culinary executive recruiter.”
What to expect: “We’re going to do modern Italian, and not anything specific to any region,” he said. “Italy has such diversity when it comes to food, and different regions lend themselves to different seasonality.”
Crudo, naturally: “We’ll have a good selection of different fish and shellfish, and probably some oysters, too,” he said. “The crudo bar will be a nice focal point and showpiece in the dining room.”
Ghosts of Figlio: Macdonald has big plans for the kitchen’s wood-burning oven, a decades-old Figlio fixture. “I love that thing,” he said. “We’re going to give it a bit of a face-lift; it’s looking a bit beat down at the moment. But it’s beautiful. I also want a wood-fired grill. I love it when you walk into a restaurant with a wood-fired grill, and it smells like a campfire. It’s so comforting, and hearty, and rustic. We’ll do pizzas, but they’re not going to be a major part of our thing. We’re going to use the oven for things like whole-roasted Italian branzino, or a nice Italian calamari stew, things that will pick up that smoky flavor.”
Pastas, too: “We’ll have fresh, and dried, a good mix, and also some stuffed pastas,” he said. “We’ll also have a traditional selection of meats and cheeses. It’s a nice communal way to start the meal, and I really like that sensibility. As much as we can, we’re going to showcase the meats they’re doing at Red Table Meat Co. Their products are so fantastic.”
Renovation in progress: “The last inception of this place was Primebar, and I don’t know what they did, but it’s not pretty,” he said. “It’s a cave in here. We’re going to lighten the place up, and make it feel bright and airy and open. They put in a gigantic bar, but we’re chopping that in half and making more room for dining.”
Returning to his hometown: “I love the chef culture here,” he said. “Everyone here is so incredibly supportive of one another. I’m used to the cutthroat environment of New York City, but here, everyone looks out for everyone else. Being a transplant, I don’t have connections with purveyors, and people have been so helpful with making introductions.”
The bar: Expect classic cocktails, plus an all-Italian wine list created by Mary Macdonald.
Opening: Macdonald said he’s aiming for a late-June/early July debut, serving lunch, dinner and late-night daily.
When: Opening late June or early July.
Where: Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Av. S., Mpls.