Sopranos Italian Kitchen: A Review

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the mock opening of Sopranos Italian Kitchen at the Shops at the West End in St. Louis Park. Sopranos is an upscale Italian grill. There isn’t much red sauce on the menu; instead, they focus on grilled and rotisseie meats or fish with an Italian flair. My first thought was that this place is kind of like Il Gato (formerly Figlio) in Uptown.

The first thing you notice when you get into the restaurant is that the place radiates warmth–literally. The first thing we noticed when we pulled up to the door was the wrap-around fireplace that extends from outside into the entryway. Then there’s the dark, cozy interior with more of the reclaimed, rustic wood paneling that was a feature in Urban Eatery that gives the place a very cozy atmosphere.

We started our meal with the minestrone and everyone agreed it was quite good, particularly on a cold day. Then, we were brought four entrees to split amongst my husband and our two friends. We tried the striped bass, linguine with clams and pancetta, spaghetti and meatballs and the Delmonico ribeye steak. All were great, but my favorite by far was the steak.

The Delmonico is a great cut of meat with an amazingly buttery and grilled flavor without being too smoky. It was juicy beyond belief and every bite was amazing. The smokiness comes from the apple, hickory, oak and maple wood-fired grill that the meats are grilled on. The grill is situated front and center in Soprano’s open concept kitchen. You can walk right up to watch (and smell) the incredible mix of burning hardwood and meat being combined and transformed into the delicious meal that will soon be at your table. I would highly recommend this steak, but it wasn’t listed on the menus that were passed out last night, so I have no idea how much it will set you back. Also, you’re presented with a choice of one of three dipping sauces to accompany your steak. We all raved about the Chianti demi-glace reduction, it was thick, sweet and tangy, without being cloying. It beat out the gorgonzola cream sauce and the red wine and olive oil reduction.

I am not a seafood person, but the clams and linguine were a big hit at the table. The linguine and other long pastas are all made fresh, in-house, daily and they have great texture and flavor. The clams, which I believe were Prince Edward Island, but may have been from somewhere else in Canada, were sauteed with lardons of pork belly and pancetta. The pork belly pieces just dissolved in the mouth. I admit I was tempted to try, which is proof of the dish’s appeal. After all the linguine was gone, everyone was searching for something on a plate that could be used to sop up all the broth because it was too good to waste. In the end, mashed potatoes worked well and there was no broth wasted.

My husband said the striped bass was solid, but not amazing. It was grilled, with a nice crispy skin and moist firm meat, over a bed of sauteed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes and drizzled with chive oil. He would have eaten the entire thing if he didn’t have to share, although our companions seemed a lot more interested in the steak and clams. We also should note that our version of the bass was modified to come with a different sauce to accommodate a food allergy. It is typically served with a pesto sauce, which I’m sure would have been great, but a trip to the emergency room really ruins the mood…

The spaghetti and meatballs was so-so. I thought that the sauce was too bland and the meatballs were too spicy (to the point where I could only eat a small taste of meatball in each bite) but if I didn’t have the meatball there wasn’t much to the sauce. This is surprising to me because the Bolognese sauce that they do over at Urban Eatery is fantastic. We know they know how to do make great, flavorful sauces, so we chalked it up to being their second night and we look forward to trying again when the kinks are worked out.

For dessert we had gelato and sorbet. We tried chocolate gelato that is sure to please any chocolate snob. The chocolate flavor was incredibly rich and creamy, with a nice balance of sweetness. We also really enjoyed the pomegranate-mango sorbet. I really enjoyed the sorbet and thought that it was the perfect ending to a rich and filling meal.

I was also impressed with their homemade lemonade. They offer flavorings with their lemonade such as strawberry and pomegranate. The flavorings are not syrupy–they are actual fresh fruit purees–and definitely worth trying. I was most impressed, however, with the fact that they provide free refills for straight-up lemonade orders and just add the up-charge for refills on the flavored lemonades. This is really nice considering this isn’t Minute Maid lemonade!!

This restaurant is definitely not inexpensive. Most entrees on the dinner menu are in the $18-30 range, so be aware if you’re trying this place for the first time. Perhaps, like Crave and Urban Eatery, they will offer great happy hour specials for those on a budget who want to get a little taste before diving in.

Sopranos is scheduled to open Monday, however, call ahead because this date isn’t set in stone.