A&E’s rootin’, tootin’ restaurant round-up

Local cowpolk’ll find these new places better than a can a’ beans over a roarin’ fire.

by Jay Boller

Following the dizzying flux of Twin CitiesâÄô restaurant comings-and-goings can be a chore. Realistically, the college-age crowd is too busy with whatever accurate cliché is occupying them to hone their âÄúfoodieâÄù credentials. Then again, impressing peers with unparalleled hipness canâÄôt be discounted. A&E wants to help. And with that, A&E presents a preview of the hottest new eateries entering the metro gastro scene. Piccolo Food: Various Location: S.W. Mpls. Opening: Dec. 2009/Jan. 2010 Doug Flicker , the former head chef at Auriga , consistently ranks in conversations surrounding the Twin CitiesâÄô best chefs. The hot-shot chef hasnâÄôt had his own restaurant in some time, but heâÄôs secured a neighborhood spot at 43rd and Bryant Ave. (formally Agri) and the food scene is abuzz âÄî Andrew Zimmer recently wrote a blog of adoration about the prospect of Piccolo. As for the food itself, Minnesota Monthly is reporting Piccolo will boast a large, a la carte tasting menu. The likely items? Diver scallop with Meyer lemon and Marcona almond, lamb loin with liquid olives and chard and, um, grilled cheese âÄî no joke. The former Agri spot is tiny (around 30 seats) and the neighborhood isnâÄôt notoriously fancy, but this place should thrive on buzz and good food alone. Ringo Food: Comfort/various Location: West Metro Opening: Mar. 2010 Interstate 394 and Hwy. 100 is home to West End âÄî an insufferably yuppie-filled âÄúlifestyle centerâÄù in St. Louis Park. Ringo, a joint venture between Jim Ringo and chef Ryan Aberle, is housed in West End, but projects to be substantially less faux fancy than Crave. Ringo is set to operate with a two-fold menu: one portion relegated to comfort foods (steaks, salads) and the other a rotating world food selection. The latter, and more exciting half, will promote dishes from regions of the globe unfamiliar to us landlocked lutefisk lovers. All the items will be cooked on the 200-seat restaurantâÄôs charcoal grill. Punch Pizza Food: Italian, Neapolitan Location: University Opening: Dec. 2009 University students already flock to PunchâÄôs N.E. location, so it makes sense for the local pizza franchise to take advantage of Stadium VillageâÄôs recent Saturday Gopher fan influx and hawk its gourmet âÄôzas closer to the U. PunchâÄôs brick oven pizza varieties thrive in their minimalism: thereâÄôs really no beating mozzarella di bufala, San Marzano tomatoes and a flame-charred crust. It will be interesting to see how the upper-tier pizza chain fares in the ill-fated Manhattan Loft location (Oak St. and Washington Ave.) with so many lower cost options enticing students. Il Gatto Food: Italian Location: Uptown Opening: Nov. 2009 Parasole Restaurant Holdings (Chino Latino, Salut, Burger Jones), quite frankly, has the Twin Cities by the balls. Locals canâÄôt get enough of the companyâÄôs quirky, fun takes on quality food. Considering how less-than-novel that equation just sounded, perhaps thatâÄôs for good cause. ParasoleâÄôs latest venture? Turning Calhoun SquareâÄôs former Figlio (also run by Parasole) spot into Il Gatto. Phil Roberts âÄî CEO of Parasole âÄî has played coy with local press, revealing few details about Il Gatto. All thatâÄôs clear is that itâÄôll be Italian, harder edged, and it will avoid many of the pastoral clichés promoted by other Italian joints. Track records arenâÄôt always indicative of success, but Parasole knows how to make Twin Cities restaurant-goers swoon. Later openings: Old Arizona Greenway Café Food: Vegan Location: Midtown It opened earlier this year, it closed and now its future is unknown. The cavalcade of hipster bikers/potential customers jetting down the Greenway sounds ideal for a vegan coffee shop/deli, but the timetable on Old ArizonaâÄôs opening is as absent as the dairy from its prospective menu. Barrio Taco Truck Food: Mexican Location: St. Paul A 26-foot truck delivering hot, gourmet tacos to the masses in 2010? The inherent coolness of that concept needs no explanation. HereâÄôs hoping it cruises across the river some; St. Paul canâÄôt hog all the greasy, crispy wonder.