Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mucci’s Italian – St. Paul, MN

D.Rough has a pretty good grasp on which restaurants are planning to open in the Twin Cities – I rely on her a LOT for this. When she told me the guys who run the Strip Club and Saint Dinette were opening a new place in St. Paul, I perked up a little bit. I will admit: I’m biased. These guys can do no wrong in my opinion. Oddly enough, I saw on Twitter and Instagram that Strip Club was making donuts – like FANCY donuts – as some trial they were running. As it turns out, these donut trials were very closely tied to Mucci’s.

Mucci’s Italian is a very small restaurant with an unassuming (and unlabeled) storefront and room for about 40 people inside. On weekend mornings, Mucci’s makes delicious fancy donuts. I don’t mean the same garbage that everyone is doing, where they put on maple glaze and a strip of bacon. That isn’t fancy. Fancy is what we saw when D.Rough and I rolled in and shook hands with the super personable owner Tim (who may or may not recognize us from frequenting his other restaurants). The donuts have some creativity and they’re also larger than most donut places. I mentioned these weren’t snacking donuts, these were meal donuts.

We got a vanilla glazed donut (with tons of vanilla beans),
a salted caramel glazed something-or-other twist, a chocolate glazed donut,
and a donut filled with mascarpone cheese, covered in chocolate glaze, and then sprinkled with fried salami bits. I’m not joking. I can put back some donuts, and I was honestly full after I ate the ONE mascarpone filled donut. So embarrassing. I loved the donut, though! Salty and sweet and fried and chocolate. There’s no bad part of this donut. We brought the other ones home to eat for lunch, since we were quite full.

But, wait! There’s more! During the evenings, they serve really interesting modern Italian food at an extremely reasonable price. We knew right away after eating the donuts that we’d be back for dinner sometime. That sometime was VERY shortly after the donut experience. This place doesn’t take reservations, so when we rolled in, we were told there was a little bit of a wait, but they suggested we walk down the block to The Spot – a wonderful St. Paul dive bar – and wait for a call. We walked down, ordered a drink, Mucci’s called, we pounded the drinks in one fell swoop, and walked back to Mucci’s. They’re REALLY friendly here, and not in a bad or creepy way. Just super helpful. We got seated at the counter (not a bar, despite it having high stools to sit on), and everyone was able to help us.

The drink list is short, but they have everything you need on it, including Prosecco on tap and a custom-made beer from Maine called Hive. But they also have something called Mucci Juice – it’s red wine with Orange Fanta in it. And it’s cheap. And it’s DELICIOUS. Just shut up and order this. So good.

Deciding what to order was more of a challenge. Too many good things on the menu. There is also a tasting menu available, which changes each night, so you’ll have to ask about it. While it sounded wonderful, we had sort of decided on getting one of their signature items: Deep fried pizza. They roll out the dough, deep-fry it, and then put toppings on it before putting it in the oven. Brilliant. So we got the Kenzie-Jo – crème fraiche, pears, pecans, pancetta, mozzarella, and a red wine reduction. We also ordered the Devil Hair pasta, which has cioppino, guanciale, mussels, mint, and chili oil. And since we obviously needed a starter, we ordered some potato croquetas. Then we hung out with the serving staff and got caught up on all the happenings and what their favorites were and what were the best and worst sellers on the menu and why. I will say, the counter is the place to sit – you get to watch ALL the food being brought out, and you get to chat with really fun and helpful people.

The croquetas arrived and they were like big tater tots with a delicious marinara-type sauce and locatelli (a very nice parmesan). They were stacked high and looked incredible. They also tasted incredible. Very crunchy outside and light and fluffy on the inside. I’m not sure how they got that crunch on the outside, but it was perfect. The Mucci’s sauce has great flavor with it and paired well with the salty cheese. A great start! Time to order some wine!

Our entrees came out after we had finished up the croquetas. The Devil Hair looked like a simple dish, but it had some very complex flavors in it. The mussels were perfectly cooked and not chewy nor rubbery, and the black pasta noodles were also cooked perfectly. The sauce the whole thing was in was amazing, we were dipping everything in it to make sure we didn’t waste it (yes, even the pizza crust, like savages – don’t judge us). The chili oil just made this dish sing. Soooooooo good.

The Kenji-Jo pizza was awesome. The fried pizza dough is like nothing I’ve had before – it’s brilliant. It tastes fried, but doesn’t taste greasy. I’m a huge fan of this now. Each of the flavors had their own profile in this pizza and the mozzarella didn’t hide any of it. Plus the wine reduction was perfect on top of this pizza. Seriously, the best pizza I’ve had in a really long time. You ned to get one of these Pizza Montanara (that’s what they call the deep fried pizza).

Since we were already on a roll, we decided to get dessert, although the decision was difficult. So we just doubled up. The chocolate budino (like an Italian lava cake) has a scoop of olive oil gelato  drizzled with olive oil and salt and is exquisite! This was awesome. They home-make all of their gelatos, so you should order a trio like we did. The red wine gelato was great, the pistachio was also good, but the real winner was the coffee gelato  – really great!

As you can see, we had nothing bad here. In fact, while we were still eating, I was texting some of our friends and setting up a dinner date with them the following Wednesday. That’s how good this place was. And we’ll keep going back!!! Thank you, Mucci’s!!

Top 5 things about Mucci’s Italian
1. Kenzie-Jo Pizza Montanara
2. Devil Hair Pasta
3. Potato Croqeuta
4. Mucci Juice!!!
5. The staff was so impressive and fun

Bottom 5 things
1. Just a heads up, it isn’t labeled at all on the outside, so you’ll likely drive past
2. No reservations (like the other restaurants they own), but you won’t mind waiting for this food
3. The waiting area inside is pretty small, so you may end up outside waiting for your table (or… go to The Spot! down the street to wait)
4. They’re not set up for groups of more than 4 (although they were incredibly nice about rearranging furniture and booths for our group of six when we came back with more people!)
5. The Mucci’s sauce is delicious, but some people like it more spicy (which they are totally willing to spice up or change out for arrabbiata sauce if you ask)


JeniEats said...

We got to stop by to this past weekend. Going to have to try making Mucci juice at home. And we also loved that Kenzie-Jo pizza.

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