We were recently in town to celebrate Mr. K’s parents 60th anniversary(!) and managed to squeeze in an amazing lunch at Monello restaurant which opened earlier this year. The chef, Michael DeCamp, also known as YC (Young Chef), most recently was head chef at the fancy French spot La Belle Vie where we always wanted to try but never did and is now either closed or closing… Monello is the Italian word for sea urchin which the chef plans to always have on the menu, along with lardo. The menu reflects a modern expression of classic Italian fare, particularly the Campania region along the southwest coast, long celebrated for its diversity and the exquisite bounties of the sea.
The restaurant is located on the ground level of the Hotel Ivy, a historic landmark in downtown Minneapolis near the convention center. The sleek interior, beautiful marble bar and dramatic light fixtures match the beauty of the food.
We started off with refreshing beverages and looking around, were surprised that there was only one other table in the entire restaurant besides us (and by some strange coincidence we were seated next to them). They left and we finished our meal as the only table, so I’m guessing the dinner crowds must be fierce!
Then came dishes from the crudo or raw seafood menu, which had a surprising number of delectable combinations to choose from. Apparently, crudo is the thing in the twin cities with at least 4 new Italian restaurants serving it. This is a good sign, I remember Mr. K’s youngest sister who has lived almost her entire life in MN, coming out to visit us in CA and barely able to face the prospect of sashimi… The servings came on very large plates that are both simple and uniquely shaped, thick luscious slices of supremely fresh fish beautifully styled and served simply which allows you to appreciate the subtle clean flavors.
Plump slices of yellowtail melted like butter in my mouth and were sprinkled with fiery chili powder, thin shreds of tomato & dots of a savory gelee ($9)
Thick slices of scallops with crunchy toasted hazelnut & verjus ($10), the flesh is so sweet and melts on your tongue, there are bits of celery leaves tucked in which add a refreshing burst of flavor. Everything is so fresh you can feel the sunshine and visualize the glimmering, deep azure Mediterranean waters off the Amalfi Coast.
Because everything was so good, we ordered one additional dish from the crudo menu, a spectacular Seabass with caviar & créme fraîche, thin slices of pickled leeks and delicate fronds of fresh dill ($10). They let the fish speak for itself by not masking with too many flavors. Are you digging these prices? Half of what you’d expect! I’m sad that we didn’t order their uni and bone marrow dish, but that just means we will have to come back for it…
The Salad of Endive with Mustard Vinaigrette & Goat Cheese ($14) was one of the most exciting salads I’ve had in a while! A wonderful mix of crunchy endive, delicate frisee and chewy raddichio, topped with delicate rings of breaded fried shallots drizzled with a champagne vinaigrette. Around the perimeter were round balls of delicate goat cheese that had been breaded and fried to a fragile crisp shell, then placed on smears of pungent mustard vinaigrette. Each bite was a taste sensation.
We shared a small dish of the Bucatini all’ Amatriciana ($10/18 for a full plate), I have a hard time resisting bucatini when I see it on a menu. The pastas, available in half or full orders, are made in house, these were thick tubes of tender and chewy bliss, richly coated with a spicy, spicy sauce based on guanciale, pecorino cheese, and tomato topped with fried parsley and robust shavings of Parmesan cheese.
Since we had a big family dinner planned in a few hours, we decided to pass on dessert (another regret besides neglecting to order the urchin dish, because we had Helicopters after dinner, which is a wholesome family tradition made from apple sauce, raisins and graham crackers). We totally enjoyed chatting with our server who was so friendly and seemed to anticipate when we had any questions or requests. The food was exceptional, the service was great, we loved the location and we hope that Monello is still there for our next visit.
Another view from our table, the space is pretty large with many different sections. This is one of those spaces that makes everyone look good…
Breakfast: Mon-Fri | 6:30am – 11am; Sat-Sun | 7am – 11am
Lunch daily | 11am – 2pm
Dinner: Sun-Thur | 5pm – 10pm; Fri-Sat | 5pm – 11pm