Weekend Tourist // Italian-Americans in Northeast Minneapolis

Before there were Super Targets and WalMart Supercenters, quaint neighborhood intersections throughout Minneapolis featured friendly and intimate Mom and Pop grocery stores. Northeast Minneapolis seemed to have a different ethnic group on each block 100 years ago, so perogies were at one store, stuffed grape leaves at another, and pasta a few blocks away. Clusters of one- and two-story commercial buildings still dot the landscape, but buildings occupying grocery stores, meat markets, hardware stores, printers and stationers are now most likely antique shops, art studios or coffee shops.

But not off Beltrami Park. Delmonico’s Italian Foods has firmly remained in place with the changing times and proudly gazes across one of the few city parks that still has horseshoe pits. The storefront is decorated with colorful hand-painted signs celebrating spumoni ice cream, fresh canoli shells, ready made pizza crusts and Gold Bond Stamps. Things haven’t changed much here.

Established in 1929, this tiny full-service grocery store has been making homemade pastas for 82 years! Two cousins, third generation family members, carry on the tradition today. The nearly floor-to-ceiling shelves are jam packed with dried pastas of every shape and size. Casually stacked cardboard boxes are filled with loaves of fresh Italian breads. There are gallon jars of pepperoncini, spices, olives, anchovies, several varieties of clam sauce, sundried tomatoes, canned tomatoes and tomato paste. Tucked in between are Kleenex, coffee and a little produce. A chilled deli case is brimming with sandwich-makings, hot and mild homemade sausages and plenty of cheese.

Mixed in with the grocery items are a sprinkling of housewares and collectibles: a vintage plaid thermos, an old red wagon, miscellaneous coffee mugs, stenciled wooden apple crates, even a Minnesota Twins 1987 world champions Wheaties box. As if there wasn’t enough stuff in there they added an ongoing garage sale! Stand in one place and it’s a visual delight.

One walk around the store probably only takes a dozen steps. It’ll be a fast visit, so have your shopping list ready. Ask for their homemade frozen-fresh pastas, squash ravioli, cheese tortellini, maranara sauce
and meatballs. And don’t forget a bag of Grandma Delmonico’s pizzelles — a delicate and crispy, anise-flavored cookie that will bring back old world’s flavors. Then just before you check out look up and see the store’s original cast iron string dispenser. Before the days of “paper or plastic” at Delmonico’s your packages would have been tied with a bow.

Delmonico’s, 1112 Summer Street NE, 8 a.m.–6:30 p.m. Tuesday–Friday;
8 a.m.–3 p.m. Saturdays.

Ideal Diner, 1314 Central Avenue NE, open 6:30 a.m.– 2 p.m.
seven days a week.

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Now that dinner’s in the bag, head to Central Avenue for lunch at the Ideal Diner. Serving satisfied customers since 1949, this narrow building packs in the people at its counter-only service. Fourteen people sit shoulder to shoulder for fried eggs, hamburgers and sandwiches all made in front of you at the truly original “chef’s table.”