Bar La Grassa & My Fresh Pasta Love (Minneapolis, MN)

Eating at Bar La Grassa was such a treat.  Just walking in felt like you were part of the in-crowd- the locals who know where to dine and where to drink late into the night.  The restaurant has an industrial-like interior with exposed brick walls, high ceilings and hip antiques that decorate the space.  The restaurant’s feel was dark yet inviting, and vibrant with chatter, laughter and red wine.  Bar La Grassa, like 112 Eatery, is open late into the night (1am for food, 2am for drinks) and even despite the long open hours, reservations are hard to come by- and for good reason.  Bar La Grassa’s chef is none other than Isaac Becker, the 2011 James Beard Best Chef in the Midwest winner, the same chef running the Twin Cities’ beloved 112 Eatery.  Nancy St. Pierre, Isaac’s wife, along with partner Josh Thoma (known for La Belle Vie, Solera and Barrio) came together in creating their newest pasta driven venture.

By Stacy Schwartz

Sit anywhere in the huge restaurant that spans nearly an entire block, or better yet, sit at their 24-seat pasta bar that directly faces into their gleaming expo kitchen.  First up (at our table by the window)- Gigante beans with pickled vegetables  and soft, chewy bread.   We start with a lovely little treat and ended with one too.  Wrapped Cayenne almond brittle– very reminiscent of 112 Eatery’s Caramel almond popcorn spiced with vanilla, nutmeg and cardamom, also served with the check.

Adam, Ian and I had to order the 1/2 sized Foie Gras Tortelini, $15.  Of course it was amazing, Isaac Becker always redefining how foie should be eaten…  The sauce was sweet which was slightly unexpected but it went well with the fresh pasta and creamy tortelini interior.  A nice textural crunch was sprinkled on top and every once and a while a sweet burst of flavor shone through due to a smattering of dried currents.

Actually, it just came to me, I’ve had foie gras tortellini before! Future Chef Chad Kiteveles made us some amazing little pockets of heaven at the CIA that were unforgettable.  He filled the fresh pasta with potatoes, truffle oil and foie- exquisite.  The picture below to the left is Chad working his magic in their tiny apartment and to the right are the sheets of the pasta waiting to be cooked.

Back to BLG- Adam was especially intrigued by the Pasta Negra with Sea Urchin Chili, Mussels and Tomato so we got a 1/2 order of it for only $12!  I really enjoyed this dish.  It was slightly spicy and the pasta was tossed with a light creamy sauce.

Ian was really itching to try the Orecchiette with Braised Rabbit so we got a 1/2 order for $8.  These lovely little ears were dense and truly craveable as only fresh pasta can be.  God, I just really love fresh pasta.  This dish was rich but not overwhelming in a too hearty/filling type of way.  The shredded rabbit was tender and the flavors were great.  Not to mention all of the 1/2 orders of pasta were very generous in portion size and reasonable in price.

Can I trail off for a bit?  My first fresh pasta experience was at Mirko in Athens, GA and I will never forget that little restaurant.  Grazie.  My first fresh pasta making experience was at the CIA, that is, the Culinary Institute of America in NY.  With a kitchen aid, a pasta roller attachment, some flour, and a delicate touch (courtesy of David Ellis), my obsession with delicious fresh pasta was born.

So after all the pasta, the three of us really couldn’t resist something sweet and once we saw “salt + caramel” we couldn’t pass up the Salty Caramel Crespelle for $7 (a crespelle is simply a crepe but in Italian).  Salty caramel goodness all wrapped up in warm dough topped with ice cream was a pretty good ending to a near perfect dinner.

Maybe it was the fresh pasta high, the energy of the restaurant, or the charm of the old-fashioned plates with mismatched patterns, but I really enjoyed my experience at BLG.  Parking was a breeze with meters all around and BLG played good music, like The Black Keys good music.  After reading several articles about BLG, I came across Isaac Becker’s quote: “Dry and fresh pastas both have their merits. I get to showcase them side by side.”  Even though I can’t seem to consume enough fresh pasta, some dry pasta will have to be on my list of “Things to try next”: Soft eggs and lobster bruschetta, Soft shell crab with pickled ramp remoulade, Gnocchi with cauliflower and orange, Crab ravioli, Red wine spaghetti with pine nuts and last but not least, the strange Calamarata with raw tuna.  Can’t wait.

Updated 11/17/2012

I’ve now returned to BLG multiple times, and I’ve never been disappointed.

We’ve since ordered the Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Bruschetta, $7,  Roasted Beet Salad with Goat’s Milk Feta, $8, half order of Bolognese, $8, and half order of the Crab Ravioli, $16.  All were good, but I’d order another bruschetta the next time, skip the salad and fill up on a side or pasta instead.  The crab ravioli is to die for.

We’ve also ordered a half order of the Gnocchi with Cauliflower and Orange, $9.  Look at all those gnocchis!  Can you imagine what a whole order looks like?  The dish is very aromatic and citrus-y, so get ready for an orange punch alongside those tender, fluffy dough pillows.

Bar La Grassa
800 Washington Ave Minneapolis, MN 55401-1330
(612) 333-3837
Dining: Mon-Thu 5pm-12am
Fri-Sat 5pm-1am
Sun 5pm-10pm
Bar: Mon-Sat 5pm-2am
Sun 5pm-12pm

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