Remember six months ago when Parella, our number four best new restaurant of 2015, shut abruptly and we lost Todd Macdonald’s incredible suckling pig and that bizarrely super fantastic green mixed salad? And do you remember the head-scratcher when Macdonald signed on with Luke Shimp, the powerhouse behind the Red Cow burgers-and-wine mini upscale chain? Well mysteries revealed: The two are opening an as-yet-unnamed Italian restaurant on the corner of 2nd Ave. and Washington Ave. in the North Loop, in a former auto body shop.
An autumn opening is targeted, hopefully sometime in October, for the restaurant which will be about the size of Red Cow North Loop, around 120 seats inside and perhaps as many outside in a three season greenhouse with big openable windows in the back. The place will be wood-fire pizza and pasta focused, with casual pricing and a lively atmosphere, Macdonald tells me. He’ll cover the basic pizzas, and also have something for the adventure-minded, “I’m working on this spicy shrimp pizza that’s pretty awesome, I think,” he said. For the cocktail hunters in the crowd, please note that new cocktails will be a focus as well with Red Cow bartender Ian Lowther, formerly of Solera and Far North Spirits, planning to use the new bar to explore seasonal and kitchen-driven cocktails, such as those using herbs grown in the big greenhouse and pickled wild ramp gimlets.
“Having been to the top of the mountain and back down again, I’ve had a lot of time to think about everything,” Macdonald told me. “I’ve figured out some definite things, and one of them is that for me, pizza is still to this day my very favorite food. It’s the perfect balance of texture and acidity and warmth, it’s a blank canvas that’s perfect when it’s plain, and nine out of ten times if you put something on it following your whims, it’s going to work out. I’m still working on all this stuff, there’s menu development and testing, but there’s one thing I’m really sure about right now, and it’s pizza.” And also pasta: For those of you who say the Twin Cities has never had a really wonderful pasta carbonara, Macdonald says he knows how to make a doozy, and it will be on the menu.
All they need now is to build the whole thing, get the permits, staff it, supply it, name it, and open it, or (as we who are not actually doing the work call it) the easy stuff. I am willing to volunteer as chief name veto-er, and so far have both independently generated and vetoed several, such as Red Cow Italiano, Loopy’s Pizza Hut, and Luke & Todd Luv Cheeze. If any one else has any names for me to veto, throw them in the comments! Till then, looks like between Young Joni in Nordeast, and this high-flying chef pizza spot in the North Loop, Minneapolis is going to have a very good pizza fall.