Osetria I Nonni: Quick Info
Their seasonal pastas are amazing!
- Pastas: $20-25 ($15 half orders)
- Pizzas: $15
- Appetizers: $15-20
- Entrees: $30-40
981 Sibley Memorial Hwy, St Paul, MN 55118
Large private lot
Seasonal menu on our visit. (Yes, that’s some spilled olive oil/balsamic, because it was so good we just couldn’t help ourselves. And yes, we’re savages.)
Osteria I Nonni - Our Full Review
So here’s the scoop on Osteria I Nonni, or at least as we know it.
Located in St. Paul’s often forgotten Lilydale neighborhood, this classy dinning room has sat attached to the ever-popular Buon Giorno Deli since 2002. (Half Italian market, half Italian deli, the locals love Buon Girono for its quick and easy to-go Italian sandwiches, pastas, meats, and more – including a hefty wine selection from the attached Sunfish Cellars.)
For a few years, the buzz around Osteria I Nonni was as sleepy as its hidden location. But then, in August 2020 the restaurant announced the partnership between its head chef and the James Beard Award winning chef Tim McKee.
When the two chefs announced a collaboration of new dishes and tasting menus, the buzz around I Nonni started flying.
So, like any good food bloggers, we knew we had to check it out. A little late to the party, we first visited in March 2021. We grabbed ourselves Friday night dining room reservations, double checked our COVID masks were sealed nice and tight, and got to sampling the new, highly hyped menu.
The Vibe & Atmosphere
The first thing you notice inside Osteria I Nonni is the dining room’s super unique vibe.
As explained by our knowledgeable waiter, the owners wanted the interior design to invoke feelings of a traditional Italian cathedral, which is only fitting considering the menu’s focus on traditional Italian food. We rate that attempt a grand success; the sweeping, vaulted ceilings are a stunning view, but the cozy corner fireplace somehow gives the vast space a homey feel.
For COVID, we were happy to see all the tables very well-spaced apart, which isn’t hard to do given the sheer size of the space.
Drinks: White Wine & Lemoncello Spritz
Our waiter kept his spiel going with an epic rundown of the wine list. This is a place recently inducted into the prestigious Wine Spectator awards, and they’ve got the endless wine menu to prove it.
As most of you know though, Lily is pretty basic with her wine tastes. She asked the waiter for something Sauvignon Blanc-like, and he rattled off a perfect, affordable recommendation. (DiscoverTheCities.com just isn’t yet big time enough for us to afford any of the many $400+ wines on the menu.)
Sean went with the Lemoncello Spritz cocktail.
Like true amateur food bloggers, we didn’t grab any pictures of the drinks, but rest assured they did a good enough job hitting the spot that we both found ourselves ordering a second round.
Appetizers: Bruschetta, Arancini Rice Balls, and Complimentary Bread & Butter
No matter who you are, appetizers at I Nonni Start with a complimentary bread basket. And while it might be a little ridiculous to get giddy about a bread basket, we were definitely giddy about the bread basket.
One bite of the warm, pillow-soft bread, with clearly hand-made butter (plus a perfect olive oil/balsamic mixture) immediately had us both pumped about what the rest of the meal had in store.
We couldn’t spend too much time wondering that question, because we also had some Bruschette and Arancini to try!
We’d already heard rave reviews about the bruschette, so we knew that had to happen.
AND… the bruschette was as rave as we were led to believe. It’s more perfect bread topped with the freshest cheese, herbs, and tomatoes you’ve ever had during a Minnesota winter. Seriously, how do they get tomatoes this fresh in March???
We couldn’t spend too much time pondering that mystery though, because we also had Arancini to eat!
Lily and I first fell in love with Arancini during our visit to Bungalow Club in Minneapolis, and we’ve since been ordering these addicting fried rice balls all over the city.
I Nonni’s take on them is really interesting. So far, they’re the only ones we’ve had with a delicious red ragu sauce, and they’re stuffed with plenty of mozerrella and parmigiano cheese to boot. The result is a crunchy, cheesy, and almost pizza-like mix.
An awesome take that we devoured in seconds.
Pasta: Lumaconi Alla Norcina
We’ve got a new challenger for some of the best pasta dishes in the Twin Cities.
This dish was recommended by our waiter, and what a recommendation!
Piping-hot, fresh made pasta, with nutty & salty pecorino cheese, perfectly spicy home made sausage, and deep flavor from black truffle-infused sauce?
This pasta was so good that yours truly immediately went home and updated our list of the best Italian restaurants in St. Paul. Truly one of the best pasta dishes anywhere.
We’re told this one’s a seasonal take thanks to the generous amount of freshly imported Italian black truffles. But seriously, who do we have to bribe to get this thing on the menu permanently?
Pizza: Prosciutto e Arugula
Our waiter also mentioned this white sauce pizza was his favorite on the entire pizza menu. Never one to doubt the expertise of a good waiter, we blindly sunk our trust in the guy who hadn’t led us astray yet.
And again, he was dead-on. This pizza was fantastic, especially highlighted by the extra salty cheese that complimented the subdued white sauce oh-so-perfectly.
Dessert: Tiramisu Classico
A perfectly moist, melt-in-your mouth cake with the most subtle hint of coffee. So good that we devoured it before even taking a picture.
Final Thoughts - Osteria I Nonni emerges as one of the best spots for Italian in the Twin Cities.
Like I said, I immediately went home after this dinner and updated our list of the best Italian restaurants in St. Paul. That really says it all, doesn’t it?
If you’re looking for upscale Italian in a slightly more formal setting, Osteria I Nonni is your spot.
A James Beard Award winning menu (that absolutely lives up to the hype) mixed with an award winning wine list makes this a perfect place for a fantastic Italian dinner.