Smoochin’ Mucci’s

Mucci's dish

If you’ve noticed a drop in traffic on I-94 flowing east at dinnertime, I’m here to tell you why. Mucci’s, the insanely popular trattoria that originated on Randolph Avenue in our sister city, has opened a second location in LynLake. Its godfather, veteran restaurateur Tim Niver, is also proprietor of St. Paul’s Saint Dinette and capo of the short-lived Jewish deli, Meyvn, where Mucci’s now resides.

Does South Minneapolis love pizza and pasta more than lox and bagels? Apparently; reservations were a must on a recent Wednesday. The landscape’s sea of tables was packed and stayed that way all evening as neighbors lingered over a menu that represents a somewhat abbreviated version of St. Paul’s greatest hits.

Are they a hit here, too? Well, in the parking lot I ran into a restaurateur from another establishment down the road. “Wonderful!” she breathed. Earlier, a foodie in my book club had nudged me: “You must go!”

Mucci's dish

To let you get on with your day, I’ll post the executive summary right here: pretty good but not dive-for-your-phone spectacular. What patrons love, I think, is the listing’s throwback aura. Spaghetti and meatballs, for heaven’s sake, rather than dainty plates composed, as if for an art project, with micro this-and-that.

The primi list (mostly $5–$15) represents good sourcing of products more than actual recipe finesse (and that’s okay) — burrata di buffala cheese, prosciutto from San Daniele — along with a classic chopped salad, focaccia, calamari and a couple of outliers (our choices), starting with the kitchen’s gnocchi.

Those little marbles of potato dough were right on target — light and far from gummy, moistened with a gravy-like pickled garlic sauce (delicious) and spangled with tiny snips of fried salami. The hangover kale hit the mark, too: warm, chopped leaves tossed with pancetta, a modest hint of chilies, more garlic and a welcome wake-up spritz of lemon, which knit the dish together.

Mucci's dish

Wood-fired pizza ($11–$17) is what now comes out of the former bagel oven (untasted, but looking lovely on an adjoining table). Instead, we opted for a couple of the fresh pastas on offer, served in half as well as full portions as a blessing for us mix-and-matchers or those continuing with a secundo ($8–$18). The curly mafaldine noodles arrived robed in butter (What? From the land of olive oil?), savory, nutty pecorino cheese, a couple of twists from the peppermill and an abundance of preserved lemon — sweet and concentrated — which aced the preparation.

Even better: Mucci’s classic spaghetti, doused liberally with the kitchen’s sweet tomato sauce, abetted with pecorino, pork sausage and juicy, tasty, worth-the-order meatballs: so, spaghetti just like your granny’s (German, in my case, although an Italian nonna would cringe at the American version of her standby. But who cares?). The noodles themselves proved more robust than actual spaghetti strands, too — a nice improvement — pulled from the boil on the softer side of al dente. Bucatini with pancetta, tagliatelle hosting shrimp, rigatoni, ziti and lasagne round out the list. If you’re old enough to remember Dinkytown’s Mama D, visualize her smilingly demanding, “Mangia!”

Secondi? Only three ($18–$22), but I’m betting that may change: chicken under a brick; cioppino — that tomato-kissed seafood stew; and verdure al forno, our selection. The “roasted summer vegetables” (predominantly sweet peppers and zucchini on our plate) arrived draped with that sweet tomato sauce and set upon creamy polenta — but not nearly enough of it; barely a teaser skimmed the platter. And the promised hit of arrabbiata failed to kick in.

Mucci's dish

Among the trio of housemade desserts ($9), a chocolate budino seemed the most voluptuous finale. It’s built upon the chocolate pudding of your childhood — rich, spared of super-sweetness, mantled in whipped cream and berries. Or choose tiramisu or zeppole fritters.

A word about the wine list, and that word is “bravo”! The selection of all-Italian labels is available in half-glass as well as full and bottle portions, so one can match each course with a suitable partner. Plus, prosecco by the pitcher if you so choose. And, unlike St. Paul, a full bar, too.

Mucci’s

901 W. Lake St.

612-315-4608

 

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