Earlier this year we began taking our boys out to the occasional formal dinner with us. They’ve been enjoying these meals greatly. While our dinner at Myriel—with their practice of not posting menus—was a chancy shot in the dark, the other two dinners—at Mucci’s Italian and 112 Eatery—were pretty solid bets as both are places with a number of pasta options (as it happens, they enjoyed Myriel as well). Thus when the younger boy expressed an interest in eating a fancy dinner for his birthday in July we decided to go back to a place with many, many pasta options: Bar La Grassa. Here’s how it went.
Bar La Grassa is one of the restaurants in the 112 Eatery family. We first ate there in 2014 and had not been back since. It’s a little hard to explain why. We thought the food was enjoyable enough but we were a bit turned off by just how much of it there was. This must seem like a very strange complaint but the excessive portions and how overbearingly full we were at the end of the meal are what stuck with us rather than the quality of the food itself. This time, however, we were going back with the boys; there’d be four of us to tackle the table, not four. Our plan was to get a starter or two, 3-4 half orders of pastas and a couple of entrees.
This plan hit a snag as soon as we sat down. We were told they no longer do half orders of pastas. We asked our server what she would recommend in terms of an order size for two adults and two kids. Her suggestion was two starters, a pasta each and a couple of entrees. I am very glad we did not listen to her for this would have been lunacy! We got two starters, three pastas and one entree and it was still quite a struggle to finish everything.
Before I get to what we ate, a quick word about the restaurant: it is large and it was jammed when we got there just after 6 pm. There seemed to be a seating already getting done and by the time we were leaving they were filling up again. They’ve clearly bounced back strong from the pandemic. Slinging large portions of pasta is clearly a good bet in such circumstances. The restaurant was full in all its various spaces: the bar, the main dining room, the rear dining room and the kitchen counter.
We sat down and ordered some drinks: a Bellini for the missus, an Aviation for me and a couple of non-alcoholic cocktails for the boys. I believe the boys may have enjoyed their drinks more than we enjoyed ours but our cocktails were both acceptable.
And so to the food. We began with the focaccia (sans white beans) and the prosciutto. The latter seems like a massive portion but, of course, the ham is shaved very thin. Our boys made it all disappear very quickly. To the pasta: we got the pappardelle with veal ragu; the smoked spaghetti alla chitarra with brown butter and lobster; and the spaghetti carbonara. We were aware that two of the pastas were very fairly similar to each other but getting both was the best way to keep everyone at the table happy. All the pastas were a bit over-sauced but not egregiously so. And all were tasty enough, even if nothing quite popped; and there was some unsightly tomato peel floating in the ragu—at least I assume that was an oversight and not a rustic touch. The smoked spaghetti was probably my pick of the three. (I’m not a fan, by the way, of the pre-grated cheese they set on the table.) I got a glass of red wine—a Barbera—with the pasta course. To follow we got the pork belly with tomato agrodolce. This was a big slab of belly served with polenta; it was tasty enough but after the pastas it was a bit of a struggle to finish it.
Even though we were all very full indeed we were there for a birthday dinner and there was no question of leaving without dessert. We got their dark chocolate budino and the limoncello sorbet. Both were very good.
For a look at the restaurant and what we ate and drank, launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service, other aspects of the experience, to see how much it all cost and to see what’s coming next.
Service was a mixed bag. It was very pleasant when present but not always predictably present. This is likely a function of how busy they were. It was also a bit of a struggle to fit all the food on the table which was not the largest 4-top we’ve ever been sat at. Granted we were sharing everything but we ran out of space with just two pastas delivered. We asked our server if the kitchen could slam the brakes on the third—she said she’d check but it showed up a few seconds later anyway and we ate with everything on top of everything else.
All of this food and drink plus tax and tip came to just about $252 or $63/head. This is just a little less than what we’d paid at 112 Eatery and a fair bit less than our bill at Myriel (Mucci’s was, of course, quite a bit cheaper still). Honestly, while this is generally a good value in the Twin Cities, and the portions are certainly not small, I don’t know that I’m in a hurry to come back anytime soon. The food was fine; it was competent enough but nothing really jumped out. There’s much better pasta to be had elsewhere in the Twin Cities—at Tenant, at Hyacinth and even at 112 Eatery: we all agreed that we liked the pastas at our dinner at 112 Eatery a lot more. Well, as the boys liked it more than we did we’ll probably be back in less than another eight years anyway.
What’s next from the Twin Cities? We are looking forward to visiting the Little Africa Festival in St. Paul this Sunday. We’ll be eating there but my next Twin Cities food report will be from another fine dining establishment in Minneapolis—look for the festival report the following week. Before that I’ll have another Los Angeles report on Saturday and my last Big Island report on Sunday. Plus a couple of whisky reviews and a recipe.