As much as I love Minnesota, I also love to travel, and since returning from our Baltic cruise my wanderlust has been in full gear. I'm eagerly anticipating a trip to Seattle in September for the International Food Bloggers Conference, and in the meantime, we've been taking cheap trips to Italy by way of downtown St. Paul's Italian food destination Cosetta Alimentari. The sprawling brick building houses a counter service eatery, a gourmet pastry shop, an Italian grocery store, and a full-service restaurant.
The Eatery & Pizzeria has a bustling, upscale food court feel, with stations featuring salads, soup, sandwiches, pasta entrees, and pizza. The green salads are mixed to order, from a wall shelf of brilliant greens with a pop of purple radicchio. The misticanza salad is vegetarian friendly, with a sharply bright lemon dressing, a generous amount of pepper, and thinly shaved Parmesan. Meat eaters would enjoy the antipasto salad, with its robust mix of high-quality genoa salami, provolone cheese, olives, and pepperoncini. If you're in the mood for heartier fare, the pizza features a wonderful house-made sauce and from-scratch crust, and can be ordered by the slice (cheese, pepperoni, or sausage) or as a whole pizza. The variety of hot and cold sandwiches are big enough to split, and served on loaves of wonderfully chewy house-made bread. If the weather is nice, there's a lovely outdoor deck off the main second floor dining area.
After you finish your meal, head back downstairs for dessert. Stepping into the Pasticceria invokes the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store sensation: a long glass case is filled with exquisite cookies and pastries. Walk slowly and take your time making your selection; the visual bonanza is half the fun. If you want to try a bit of everything, there are bite-sized versions of many of the pastries. I'm partial to the miniature chocolate mousse, with its chocolate crust, rich chocolate ganache, and fluffy dome of mousse. Mike's favorite is the miniature Key Lime tart, with its flaky, buttery crust and a delicate dollop of whipped cream and dainty blueberry for garnish. There is also wonderful gelato in a variety of flavors, labeled in Italian but with visual cues so that you can figure out what each flavor is, such as a strawberry on top of the "fràgola." My favorite flavor so far is the chocolate hazelnut.
The Market and Italian Grocery features a broad array of all foods Italian, with a variety of freshly baked bread; a deli with pasta salads, prepared entrees, and an assortment of meats and cheeses; a full meat counter; and Italian dry goods including pasta, sauces, olive oil, vinegars, and chocolates. You can purchase Cossetta's house-made pizza sauce for your homemade pizza, as well as their gelato for dessert. I recommend the Dei Fratelli Fire Roasted Vegetable pasta sauce (not quite homemade, but the best I've ever had out of a jar) and the Emilia mushroom gnocchi (excellent in Butternut Squash with Gnocchi and Mushrooms). But the bread is the highlight for me, with loaves displayed on shelves up to the ceiling and carefully handwritten signs describing the texture and crumb of each variety. Personal favorites include the focaccia asiago breadsticks and shepherd stick ciabatta.
Whether you're looking for supplies to cook an Italian feast, a great slice of pizza, or a delectable dessert, Cossetta is your place. While it may not be Italy, I suspect it's comparably delicious.
211 7th Street West
St. Paul, MN 55102