Pssst… allow me to let you in on a local secret…
Most people don’t know about the city of St. Paul’s rich Italian history. (What, you thought all those Italian-themed bars and pubs lining West 7th Street was just a coincidence?)
In the late 1880s, tons of Italian immigrants fled their home country and settled in St. Paul, mostly thanks to the city’s abundant railroad jobs. By the early 1900s, St. Paul had a thriving “Little Italy” just north of The High Bridge, near today’s West 7th neighborhood.
This Little Italy continued to grow and thrive through the 1950s, until Mississippi River flooding eventually destroyed most of the area.
Despite the sad ending to that little intro, many of St. Paul’s Italian traditions live on today. You can even still find a Charlie Brown statue near the Science Museum, which was erected to honor many of the prominent Italian families which thrived in St. Paul’s Little Italy. You might recognize some of the names – the Bonfe family, the Cossetta family, and the Mancini family, among others.
What’s this St. Paul history lesson mean for you, the hungry reader in search of delicious restaurants?
Well, the one Italian tradition that lives on more than any other? Absolutely delicious Italian food in St. Paul.
From incredible, authentic Italian pasta to delicious Italian Hero sandwiches. We’re sharing all our local’s picks for the best Italian restaurants in St. Paul.
- 1. Best classic Italian family dinner: DeGidio’s
- 2. Best casual Italian: Cossetta’s
- 3. Lily’s personal favorite Italian in St. Paul: Mucci’s
- 4. Best award-winning Italian restaurant in St. Paul: Hyacinth
- 5. Most unique Italian spot: Due Focacceria
- 6. Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Carmelo’s
1. Best classic Italian family dinner: DeGidio’s
During the prohibition of the early 1920s and 1930s, Joe “Kid Bullets” DeGidio ran a successful bootlegging business. Using his profits, Joe DeGidio founded DeGidio’s in 1933. Over the next few decades during St. Paul’s notorious gangster era, his restaurant rose to prominence as a favorite mobster hangout.
Today, although the mob ties were severed decades ago, DeGidio’s remains at the same location and is ran by Kid Bullets’ grandchildren.
And they’re doing a mighty fine job! Because DeGidio’s just might be your best bet for a classic Italian family dinner in St. Paul. That’s thanks to a sit-down atmosphere that will transport you back to another era, plus a menu with all the usual suspects, like Spaghetti, Lasanga, and Chicken Parmesan or Chicken Alfredo. But for the true DeGidio’s experience?
We’ve only got two words for you: Tortelloni Bolognese.
It’s fresh made tortellini, stuffed with flavorful cheese and delicious Italian sausage, all covered in an amazing vodka-like tomato sauce that will have you wanting to drink your meal. This absolutely delicious dish exemplifies everything we love about DeGidio’s.
- Address: 425 7th St W, St Paul, MN 55102
- Website: DeGidio’s
2. Best casual Italian: Cossetta’s
You can’t talk about Italian food in St. Paul without mentioning Cossetta’s.
Michael Cossetta immigrated to St. Paul in the late 1800s, and his tiny neighborhood food market was a cornerstone of St. Paul’s Little Italy through the 1950s.
Over time, that tiny market grew and grew. Along the way, Cossetta added an Italian restaurant. By 2012, that restaurant was so popular that the family finished an over $12 million dollar renovation which transformed the space into a huge attraction all by itself.
There’s still the full Italian grocery. But the renovation also added an Italian dessert shop, which was created by Italian craftsmen, shipped across the ocean, and then reassembled in St. Paul. And while you should totally get yourself some delicious Italian gelato or macaroons while you’re there, it’s really all about the revamped restaurant.
At Cossetta’s, all the food is served cafeteria style. Grab a tray, and start picking your dishes!
You’ll start at the salad station before passing the sandwich shop (home of Cossetta’s famous Italian Hero!) and then reaching the main event: the pasta entrees.
We’re huge fans of the Mostaccioli con Riccota, a classic red sauce pasta dish, as well as the Tortellini alla Panna, an absolutely delicious cheese stuffed alfredo dish. (For the more traditional entree seekers, there’s all the classics too, like Lasagna, Marsala Chicken, and Chicken Parm.)
Oh, and just before reaching the cash register, you’ll pass the pizza-by-the-slice corner. Good luck resisting! (We consider the huge, classic slices some of the best pizza in St. Paul.)
- Address: 211 7th Street West Saint Paul, MN 55102
- Website: Cossetta’s
3. Lily’s personal favorite Italian in St. Paul: Mucci’s
When it comes to Italian food in St. Paul, we’ve got to give Lily, DTC’s longtime St. Paul local, a dedicated vote. Here’s what she had to say:
When Mucci’s first opened up in 2016, I was a little confused. While the team had impressive experience in the food industry (these are the same folks who run St. Paul’s delicious brunch and burger spot, Saint Dinette) they’d also chosen a tiny, discreet, and unmarked building the middle of a sleepy West 7th neighborhood.
After my first bite of Mucci’s legendary Lasagna, that confusion immediately changed to love.
At Mucci’s, you’ll find classic Italian staples taken to the next level, in what I can only describe as a trendy, foodie, and… chefy?… environment.
It’s all amazing, and makes for what might be my overall favorite Italian restaurant in St. Paul.
When it comes to the food, Lily’s got some great ammo supporting her claim.
She already mentioned the Lasanga, which is good enough for us to repeat, but really, you can’t go wrong with any of Mucci’s fresh made pastas. And of course, there’s also the incredible fried crust pizza. (Another winner of our best St. Paul pizza awards.)
Lily’s clearly not the only fan, either. Today, Mucci’s tiny location is packed table to table at all hours of operation. Get ready for a wait, and once you’re seated, try not to eaves drop on your neighbor’s dinner convo!
- Address: 786 Randolph Ave, St Paul, MN 55102
- Website: Mucci’s
4. Best award-winning Italian restaurant in St. Paul: Hyacinth
You might be thinking Hyacinth is just another Italian restaurant in St. Paul. Allow us to change your mind with a couple unique facts about Hyacinth:
- Opened in 2018, it’s one of the newest restaurant on this list.
- It’s the smallest restaurant on the list, seating only 40 people.
- Maybe most importantly, it’s the only James Beard nominated restaurant on this list. (Rising Star Chef of the Year)
Yeah, that last one is kind of big deal.
This grand avenue location is a clinic in Italian dishes prepared perfectly. Chef and owner Rikki Giambruno takes no shortcuts in finding the best ingredients, and then prepares them using techniques perfected from his stints working at Michelin-starred New York City restaurants.
With a seasonal menu, the only constant at Hyacinth is deliciousness. If you’re still looking for more specifics, Lily wrote a raving review about the Pork Sausage Fusili and the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe.
- Address: 790 Grand Ave, St Paul, MN 55105
- Website: Hyacinth
5. Most unique Italian spot: Due Focacceria
Looking for an Italian meal that’s a little off the beaten path of pasta and lasagna? For our money, you won’t find a more unique Italian experience in the cities than Due Focacceria.
That’s because at Due, the entire menu is devoted to a specific type of bread. It’s all about the focaccia, baby!
If you’ve never made it to Italy to experience the fine process of dousing dough in olive oil, salt, and maybe a little rosemary, then baking it flat until you have the soft, rich, and thick bread known as focaccia, well… now you don’t have to. Because that’s exactly what they’re doing at Due.
The result is a beautifully casual spot. Due’s menu is packed with fantastic “Street Sandwiches,” unique bread appetizers, and some of the best meat and cheese boards you’ll find anywhere. There’s even a walk-up bar.
Due’s owners said they were going for a unique vibe resembling an Italian piazza – a gathering where people hang out at cafes, sip drinks, and share plates. From what we’ve seen, they’ve absolutely nailed it.
- Address: 475 Fairview Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105
- Website: due
6. Favorite neighborhood restaurant: Carmelo’s
Carmelo’s is an Italian restaurant found in St. Paul’s Highland neighborhood with a devout following of locals. All it takes is one visit to understand why.
Step inside Carmelo’s, and you’ll immediately feel the welcoming vibe. Like walking into a friend’s home, this down-to-earth neighborhood spot oozes comfort.
That feeling of comfort carries over to the menu too, which features all sorts of simple yet tasty classics, including Pasta Primavera, signature Raviolis, and their signature Chicken Carmelo (a lightly breaded chicken with alfredo sauce and veggies).
Of course, all this comes with an impressive wine menu, complete with the owner’s personal descriptions and opinions of each taste. Such a cool touch!
- Address: 238 Snelling Ave S, St Paul, MN 55105
- Website: Carmelo’s
7. The best upscale Italian: Osteria I Nonni
This often overlooked spot in the often overlooked Lilydale section of St. Paul recently charged back onto the scene, thanks to a collaboration between the restaurant and local James Beard Award winning chef Tim McKee. (Known for Octo Fish Bar and La Belle Vie, among another Twin Cities hits.) The result is a new and improved menu that completely blew us away on our visit – they’ve got incredible pastas, pizzas, and appetizers, all in a beautiful, upscale setting.
- Address: 981 Sibley Memorial Hwy, St Paul, MN 55118
- Website: Osteria I Nonni