Ciao Chow

Italian food is. so. good. Here’s a synopsis of two Italian(ish) eating experiences I’ve had in the recent past.

The first was at Scusi in St Paul.


I went to Scusi with a group of co-workers early in the week. I haven’t been to nearly as many St. Paul restaurants as Minneapolis ones, and I love being reminded that there’s a whole other city of good grub waiting to be discovered just across the river. Scusi’s menu is fairly traditionally Italian (although I was disappointed to find that they don’t make many homemade pastas). The table started with some appetizers of fried artichokes, bruschetta, arancini (crispy risotto balls), and beet/blue cheese salad:


The meal also came with some nice looking bread:

the lighting was bad, so most of the pictures are dark!

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For my meal, I ordered the eggplant parmesan with gnocchi instead of pasta (the gnocchi is homemade):


Others ordered pizza and gnocchi with a san marzano sauce:

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The meal was great! After the meal, the table also ordered some desserts including an ice cream sundae and a particularly impressive dish of sugared donut holes with caramel sauce.

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This was an extravagant meal and not for the faint of heart. If you are looking for a celebratory restaurant and like Italian food, this might be a good location.

My second encounter with Italian food was at Pizzeria Lola

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Pizzeria Lola is a wood-fired pizza place in southwest Minneapolis. It’s not your traditional pizza joint though. First, it is exceptionally delicious. Second, it has a unique fusion menu created by its Korean owner (and the restaurant is named after her dog, Lola).

The place was packed (generally an indication that the food is good), so we took a seat at the bar to avoid a long wait. The bar seating turned out to be great because we had a top-notch view of the kitchen and pizza oven:

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We started off with one of the vegetable specials: a kale salad with watermelon radish and feta:


We ordered two pizzas. Le Creme which came with Italian red sauce, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream, olive oil and basil:


And the Korean BBQ which was beef short ribs, mozzarella, scallions, arugula, sesame and soy-chili vinaigrette:


Wow! The Korean BBQ pizza was amazing. It was super filling because of the meat, but it the sesame/soy sauce made it very flavorful.

More than just a pizza place, Lola’s is also acclaimed for their soft serve frozen yogurt (not what you would expect, right?). After the meal, we shared the dessert special: a swirl of Crispin apple cider sorbet and vanilla frozen yogurt topped with caramel sauce:


If you like pizza, go here now! The only thing to note is that Pizzeria Lola doesn’t have any pizza by the slice options, and if you want a table at a normal meal time, you need to be prepared to wait. If you want a quick slice, you could check out Hello Pizza near 40th and France, Lola’s sister restaurant from the same owner.

Oh, and the trip to Lola’s was especially fun since our waiter turned out to be from Vermont and went to same college as us! Small world.

Acorn Squash and Northfield Pizza Barn

Organic acorn squash was on sale at the grocery store last week, so I bought three big ones. Squash doesn’t really go bad, right? Not that its shelf life ended up being an issue anyway…I’ve been eating squash at almost every meal since it is soooo delicious.

Cooking it in the oven is a breeze. All you need to do is preheat your oven to 400°, chop the squash in half, remove the seeds, and bake (cut side down) for about 30 minutes. The fun part comes after the squash cooks when you can get creative with fillings! One of my favorite combos so far is chopped tomato, fresh basil, and shredded mozzarella:


Broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese melts:


Voila! Delicious caprese-stuffed acorn squash:


In other news…Noah and I visited the Northfield Pizza Barn. The Pizza Barn is located at the Red Barn Farm of Northfield, and they serve up fresh wood-fired pizzas every Wednesday night and the third Sunday of each month throughout the summer. It’s a simple production – all they give you is your pizza and a box – so bring your own plates, chairs or blanket, drinks, etc.

When you get to the farm, you’ll see satisfied pizza-eaters sprawled throughout the farm:

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Pizzas are made using pesticide-free produce and products grown right at Red Barn Farm! There are about 9 pizza options to choose from:


We selected the veggie – it comes with tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic, olives, peppers, and mushrooms. Since Pizza Barn is so good, it will most likely be crowded and you’ll need to kill some time while waiting for your pizza. We had about 20 minutes of waiting time, so we checked out the animals:


and the ‘general store:’

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By the time our pizza was finished we were pretty hungry, so I didn’t mange to snap a pic until the box looked like this:


woops. 🙂

The pizza was good, but I would say the real treat of the evening was the environment. It was really fun to sit out on the farm lawn with so many other folks, enjoying gorgeous weather and pizza. Northfield is only about a 45 minute drive south from the Twin Cities, so if you’re in the area it’s worth it for a nice weeknight getaway.

All smiles after pizza feast: