Colinary Tour of Minnesota – Italy

If you’ve never been there before, you’re going to be overwhelmed when you first walk in – in the best way possible. Confused too, to be honest.

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Cosetta’s Italian is in the prime commercial district of St. Paul, right across the street from Xcel Energy Center where the Wild play their hockey games. It’s got a grandiose exterior with carved pillars, large windows and dramatic doorways; it’s on the corner of the block. I was told it’s a great spot for lunch, but to be honest I was getting scared that it was going to become a candlelit dinner type of scene – all too eager to chew threw my wallet.

But I’ve never been one to back down from a challenge – especially when there’s some form of ricotta cheese on the other side – so I pushed on. I walked in, immediately to be overwhelmed and confused.

Overwhelmed because there was just too much for my eyes to take in to fully understand the type of place I was in; confused because I saw cake displays, stairs, plastic lunch trays and a macaroon kiosk…enough to bewilder anyone. I honestly had to walk around for four or five minutes before I began to understand the process. But when I did, I became much more excited than if I were taken to the corner table with a white tablecloth and a view. They’re a lunch-tray-and-line type of spot. MY FAVORITE. It’s easy AND you know what you’re getting into before you order. Like Picadilly’s, but Italian.

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The reason it’s a tad confusing is because the entrance doesn’t exactly point you in the right direction. You walk in and are looking at the side of a stairwell. You can kind of see some pizza action towards your right, but overall – it’s just not discernible what to do. Basically it’s laid out in a square. In the back wall is the food line. In the middle is an island for the checkout station where the drinks and beer are located. In the front is the entryway and stairwell. See my confusion?

First up is the salad displays. Name a salad ingredient. Literally any salad ingredient and I’d bet my life savings (about the same amount as a salad from Cosetta’s) that they’ve got it. You can choose from one of their signature creations or make your own. We got the Misticanza Salad – radicchio and arugula with lemon citronette dressing and parmesan cheese. It was simple and tasty with fresh crisp lettuce that didn’t wilt as the meal went on.

Next in line is the hot foods. Trays upon trays of classic Italian dishes including lasagna, chicken marsala, chicken cacciatore, sausage calabrese and veal/chicken parm. Their special of the month was Portobello mushroom ravioli. We ordered the lasagna, the mushroom ravioli and chicken fettucini. The ravioli was heartily stuffed and properly cooked, the fettucini was tasty but got lost in the sauce and the lasagna was the winner. All meat and noodles with no frills, it satisfied and filled us up. It was served with a side of mostaciolli con ricotta (more or less baked ziti noodles) which were divine.

Now, if you’re a native Minnesotan, I feel like I must apologize here. I didn’t get any pizza. I had no idea that’s their money maker; but when I talked to people about my experience afterwards they looked at me with almost pure disgust when I said I didn’t get the pizza. You would’ve thought I told them Chipotle was better than Willy’s or something.

It was a very fair price for a hefty and delicious portion – about $14 for lunch and a drink. After you get your food, you’ve got to walk upstairs to get a table, and that’s when you truly grasp just how massive this place is. After our meal we walked back downstairs to the main food area. To your left, the dessert room, to your right, the market.

The dessert room had anything and everything. I’m not even going to try to explain it because I won’t do it a proper service – just look at the pictures below.

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The market is the same thing, too extensive for me to portray properly. Check out some pictures for yourself. I will say this, if you want a legitimate Italian cheese selection: Cosetta’s is your place.

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