Tom Broder, pioneer of Italian dining in Minneapolis, dies

Tom Broder knew food, cherished food and understood food. Friends and family fondly remember lunches with cold ricotta and dinners where something new — new grilling methods or new ingredients — was always on the menu.

“The man loved food,” friend Jay Sparks said.

Broder, the owner and founder of Broders’ Cucina Italiana and Broders’ Pasta Bar, died Saturday, July 5, of a life-long heart condition. He was 59.

Broder’s son, Thomas Broder Jr., said his father discovered a love for Italian food while growing up in New York. A friend’s family, whose dinners the elder Broder often would partake in, introduced him to authentic Italian ingredients and flavors, and he was sold for life. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at St. Louis University — during which time he met his wife of 37 years, Molly — and furthered his education during travels to Italy.

In 1982, Broder and his wife opened Broders’ Cucina Italiana at 50th Street & Penn Avenue.

“Tom was a pioneer in so many ways,” Sparks said. “[He and his wife] were bringing in ingredients and Italian delicatessen that were more than just your regular Italian-American fare.”

In 1994, the Broders opened the pasta bar. Broder brought equipment to Minneapolis from Italy to produce fresh pasta on-site. Disappointed to find restaurants could not sell liquor south of Lake Street, he collected thousands of signatures in 1996 and successfully petitioned the state Legislature and the city to change the law.

Restaurant-goers likely will remember him best for bringing mouth- and eye-popping flavors to Southwest. Those closest to him will remember him for his integrity. And love.
Broder Jr. said family was all-important to his father. The Broders — father, mother and three sons — always had dinner together.

“It wasn’t just a time to nourish the body,” Broder Jr. said. “It was a time to nourish the soul.”

Those values transferred over to their work, said Sparks, executive chef at Campiello.

“They absolutely wanted to do the best,” he said. “They didn’t want to be the best — they wanted to do the best.”

Broder is survived by his wife; sons Thomas, Charlie and Danny; and brothers Jim and Terry Gahan and Michael and Chris Broder. His father, mother and stepmother and a sister died earlier.

Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. July 8 and 9 at the family’s home, 4841 Russell Ave. S.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be sent to the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 920 E. 28th St., Minneapolis, MN 55407.

(Disclosure: Terry Gahan is co-publisher of the Southwest Journal.)