I got a hot tip recently – a sighting of a pasta making machine at Italiani’s Family Restaurant Grill & Bar, 3508 E. Lake Street. That’s pretty rare these days – making pasta by hand is very labor intensive.
Back when I lived in the neighborhood, the place was known as the Lake Street Garage, and served up malts, burgers, pasta and pizza.I hadn’t set foot inside in years, but when I visited the other night, it looked pretty much the way I remembered it, except that some pictures of Ecuador have been added to the basic malt shop décor. (It turns out that the new owner is a native of Ecuador, and worked at Gianni’s Steakhouse in Wayzata and Lord Fletcher’s on Lake Minnetonka before opening his own place.)
The menu still offers burgers, malts, shakes, pizza and pasta, but the new owners have added a few more ambitious daily specials, like a seafood pasta and a walleye entree. There are no Ecuadorian dishes on the menu, but the owner told me that they occasionally feature Chaulafan (Ecuadorian-Chinese fried rice) and Churrasco (steak with fried egg, avocado and plaintains) as nightly specials. The appetizer list is mostly State Fair stuff – onion rings, corn dog, mozzarella sticks. We opted for the Buffalo chicken wings (about a dozen for $6.95) -which were quite good – crisp skin, moist meat, and just the right level of spice.
I didn’t see any pasta machines, but I was assured that the fettucine really is made from scratch. It’s offered on the menu as fettucine Alfredo, available with chicken, shrimp or broccoli, but the owner said I could have it with any pasta I chose. I opted for the pasta with Italian sausage and Bolognese sauce, ($9.75) which was served with feta, in a meaty tomato sauce, accented with feta. A very tasty dish, and much more satisfying than the usual Italian-American red sauce fare.
The nightly seafood pasta special ($15.50) didn’t quite live up to its billing – the menu promised linguine shrimp, scallops and calamari, but we got shrimp, bay scallops and imitation crab instead – but there were no complaints about the flavor. There are other dishes I would like to sample on a return visit – the ribeye with home-cut fries ($13.65) and maybe one of the pizzas, like the spinaci speciale, topped with spinach, parmesan, bacon, sun-dried tomatoes, smoked cheddar and mozzarella ($14.50/ $17.50).
Italiani’s offers a limited but decent list of wines and beers. On Sundays, they offer an all-day brunch, served from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Italiani’s Family Restaurant, Grill & Bar, 3508 E. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-729-8820.