VENUE DETAILS

Al Vento

Price:

$$$

Cuisine Type:

European, Italian

Serves:

Dinner, Brunch

Handicap Accessible:

Yes

Outdoor Seating:

Yes

Handicap Accessible:

Yes

Outdoor Seating:

Yes

Rating: One Star One Star No Star No Star

REVIEW

There's no foolproof recipe for creating a successful neighborhood bistro, but Al Vento, the new Italian cafe in south Minneapolis' Longfellow neighborhood, follows a formula that has worked well for Pane Vino Dolce, Giorgio's, Prima and Broder's Southside Pasta Bar, among others: simple but authentic fare, moderate prices, minimal decor and romantic lighting.

Al Vento chef-owner Jonathan Hunt was previously chef at Pane Vino Dolce. It's easy to see a family resemblance between the restaurants, though the decibel level is much lower at Al Vento. You can spend as much as $15 for a sampler of three antipasti at Al Vento, or $25 for an entree (the braised lamb shank), but its strong suit, like PVD's, is that you don't have to: You can start with bruschetta ($4), or a salad ($5 to $6), and then order a pizza ($9 to $10) or a pasta ($12 to $15), wash it down with a very drinkable $4 glass of the house red, and split one of their excellent desserts.

Unlike PVD and the other newer and more sophisticated Italian restaurants, which tend to celebrate the cuisine of northern Italy, Al Vento's menu has a southern accent. Southern Italian cooking got a bad reputation in this country because it -- or rather an Americanized version of it -- is the Italian cooking most of us grew up on, in the bad old days before any of us had heard of radicchio and arugula, Balsamico and Barolo. In the pantheon of food snobbery, the north is still equated with Florence and Venice, extra-virgin olive oils and highbrow culture, while the south is associated with spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli in red sauce and Chef Boy-ar-dee.

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