Mr. H decided to surprise me with a dinner on a holiday. This being Valentines Day, and the place being Rinata. Rinata has been tops on my list to visit for months now, so I was glad to check it out.
Our reservations were for 4:30, and we were running a bit late, so we called and asked if we could bump them to 5 PM. We knew we were risking losing our reservation, since this is a busy time. They said they could get us in, but couldn't sit us at the table they wanted to. Fine with us. So off we went to the ghost of Giorgio's past in good old Uptown Minneapolis.
We arrived around 5 PM to an almost completely empty restaurant. Rinata is a nice space, if a bit tight. The bar area is in the middle as you walk in, and is nice and modern with tall tables. There are two opposing rooms with somewhat standard table seating. We checked in, and hostess guided us to a table/ bench combo (a personal dislike of mine) about 3 feet away from one of the 3 couples in the entire place. We immediately asked for different seating. I understand that they have a structure to seating and reservations, but there were at least 2 dozen other places to sit, so I'm not sure why she sat us there. Anyhow, we were seated elsewhere and it was fine. Our waitress was stellar. She made the food sound irresistable, and was very charming and professional - not at all stuffy, arrogant, or too "soft." She gave us 2 wine samples and explained the specials and half price wine deal until 6. Mr. H opted for a vodka and lemoncello martini, and (surprising myself) I ordered a bottle of the 2007 Ali Sangiovese, which clocked in at $15. The drinks came, and were lovely. His martini a hint of sweet and sour, not curling or coating your tongue with either. The wine was rustic; slightly dry, and berry spiced. It was perfect with our meal, which made me extremely happy since I have trouble finding a satisfactory wine lately.
We opted for the appetizer special (the bruschetta with salmon,goat cheese and fresh dill) to start off. Shortly after ordering, we received bread paired with olive tapenade on top of a nice pool of olive oil. The bread was nice and soft, but also substantial and honest in foccacia roots. The crust was a tad salty; a minor offense that the tapenade and olive oil made up for. After about 10 minutes, our appetizer came:
The portion size was perfect. the presentation simple. I took a bite and immediately thought two things: gosh this bread is perfectly crispy and then...KABOOM. Garlic punch to the FACE. Hey I love heavy garlic, but my tongue burned if I put it directly on the bread. It wasn't terrible, but I couldn't continue (rare rare rare for me.) Mr. H happily gobbled them up. The other components were fine, but the garlic put my tail between my legs.
We finally decided on our entree's, Mr. H ordered the Ziti (Ziti with tomato white wine braised pork shoulder and swiss chard - $14.75) and I the Bucatini (Bucatinni alla Amatriciana with pancetta chili flake and tomato $13.50), with no hesitation. I have never had bucatini and was eager to experience it.
The plates were brought out by who I assume to be the owner. Nice steaming hot plates of appropriately portioned pasta. I was pretty excited just looking at the stuff. It looked wonderful. I let it cool a few minutes, and dug in. First lesson: you really CAN'T slurp bucatini! These udon-resembling noodles were very al dente and toothsome. I wouldn't say they were tough, but they were chewy. I think I prefer my pasta a touch more soft, but maybe my palette isn't refined enough.I do know though, that my palette is refined enough to recognize a saltosphere. I'm not nay-saying this though, because it seems the perfect thing to eat when you WANT something salty. I'm sure the pancetta aided and abetted in this partial aus-salt (!!) as it was abundant. The tomato sauce was tangy, garlicky and spicy, which rounded out the entire palette of bold flavors and sturdy pasta.
I tasted a few bites of Mr. H's ziti, and I experienced the occasional food envy. *sigh*. It was a direct flavor contrast to mine; savory (pork), rich (sauce made from braised pork, garlic, tomatoes) and earthy (swiss chard.)
We decided to splurge and order molten chocolate cake for dessert (literally, $7.75.) I've never had molten chocolate cake before, and maybe I expected too much (ooey chocolatey goodness oozing out of a rich cake??) and got the reality (dark chocolate brownie with a soft kinda gooey middle.) The vanilla gelato was surprisingly good - sweet and creamy with little flecks of vanilla.
Rinata wasn't a complete success, but it intrigued me enough to go back. They have a great looking gnocch,. and a super deal for course meals every Sunday (Sunday date night 4 course meal $20 per person!.) When we left, the place was about halfway full, steadily filling up as we ate.
-Wine specials (half price bottles until 6 PM)
-Bread and tapenade
-Wine glasses (i know this sounds weird, but I am all about proper drinkware - these glasses made even a schlub like me feel a bit elegant.)
Not so greats
-Bucatini wasn't a "not great" thing, it was just VERY flavorful (salty, spicy, tangy, garlic)
Minneapolis, MN, Minneapolis, MN