New gal in town

Giulia dish

Do we need yet another Italian restaurant anchoring a Downtown hotel? By my count, this is the third. (Am I missing anyone?) And by customers’ count, apparently, yes: The room was buzzing. And having Steven Brown (Tilia, St. Genevieve) as consulting chef with Josh Hedquist riding the nightly range doesn’t hurt.

Sooo, benvenuto Giulia, the pleasantly minimalist, airy dining room in the former Hotel Minneapolis, recently rebranded, and attractively gentrified, as The Emery.

Giulia interior

Grab a stool at the tile-clad kitchen counter, a seat at a communal table (good luck with that concept, Minneapolis) or a private two-top, then cast your eyes upon the (too short) tightly edited menu while you sip, perhaps, an Italian old fashioned born of local rye, or maybe the Boulevardier (bourbon, this time) from the bar’s Negroni list. Plenty of wines by the glass, too, including a welcome sextet of bubblies.

Four plates of antipasti for sharing ($14–$22) lead the dinner choices, including the star of the starters, fresh-fresh mozzarella, balled and pulled, like taffy, right before your eyes (our century’s replacement of the tableside Caesar?). Given a final dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it’s delightfully, almost virginally, sweet, fresh and springy — a far cry from those little rounds in the supermarket case. Choose any, or all, of four accompaniments, including lush segments of super-fresh tomatoes; an olive tapenade as a sharp, salty contrast; prosciutto-like leaves of ham; and perky peppers. (Oh, you want some bread with that? Sure you do. For an extra charge, there’s a decent, straight-arrow focaccia to do the trick.)

Giulia dish

Or try the black kale salad. Or the beef tongue/caviar combo, which I’ve never seen on a menu in Italy (but perhaps Mr. Brown has) and may not head the bestseller list here in the land of cautious Nordics. But the plate-size pizzas (three choices, $14–$18) will, I’m sure. Their lusty crusts maintain the optimum balance between chewy and tender and are able to support their toppings.

Two pasta selections follow: $15 for Cacao & Pepe, which may be a misprint, I’m hoping? Rather than “cacao,” or cocoa, might they mean “cacio,” or cheese? Never mind. We were more than happy (barring the price tag) with the agnolotti, $24 — bouncy pasta pockets spilling with a rich and juicy venison sugo liberally scented with sage and parm.

Giulia chef

Next, entrees — three of them:  a pork chop ($26), branzino ($36) and veal Milanese ($42). Sticker shock, anyone? We split the branzino — the whole fish presented, saltimbocca (“jump in the mouth”) style, bundling prosciutto and sage into the wrap of fish, which was a bit over-cooked. It’s nicely presented with astringent (and welcome) sauteed artichokes, a verdant salsa verde and a splash of lemony aglio. Nice dish to share.  Couldn’t resist an order of polenta ($7) on the side. It’s straightforward (thus not cheesy), fine-textured and comforting.

Two desserts are featured — a panna cotta ($10) and our choice, the black cocoa budino ($8) — a chocolate pudding far superior to mom’s, I hate to say. This elite version highlights caramel, coffee crumbs and hazelnuts — a fine finale to a pleasant evening.

 

Giulia

The Emery Hotel

215 S. 4th St.

612-340-0303

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