Louis Ristorante: A first look at Cossetta's new restaurant

Now open, fine dining at Cossetta's

Now open, fine dining at Cossetta's

Cossetta's is part of the fabric of St. Paul. What was once a tiny family grocery store has been reborn again. Dave Cossetta, who operates the family business, has built an ambitious expansion, including a rooftop patio and an elegant new restaurant named, Louis (pronounced Louie).  

We stopped by recently to get a taste of Cossetta's newest addition.

The menus are adorned with pictures of the old neighborhood, the levee.  Touches of the family and the history of the city are everywhere.  As with the more casual space downstairs, black-and-white pictures are everywhere. The best way to enter the restaurant is from the back parking lot (there's dedicated Cossetta's parking as well as a ramp nearby).  Walk up the winding stairs or take a handy elevator to the expansive new space.

The outdoor bar will be ready by spring. The view is a stunner.

The outdoor patio doors were open on the unseasonably warm day we visited, but the bar is still taking shape.

Sausage and peppers, carpaccio and spiedini -- these are happy hour portions
We arrived in time for happy hour and ordered an ambitious amount of food. The portions are hefty, while the prices are low.  Happy hour is 3 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close every day.  Drink specials are $3 for domestic tap beers, $3 Bellinis, $4 for house wine, $4 for margaritas, or $5 for a martini or Manhattan.  The red wine was bright and fruity, a great pairing with the food. 

The entire, extensive menu is stacked with Italian classics.  It's laid out by appetizers, soups, and salads, pastas, entrees, and desserts.  Meat options are further sectioned out by chicken, veal, beef, and fish.

The selection of happy hour plates range in price from $4 to $6. Guests can choose to graze on bruschetta or little meatball polpette or go for bigger options like the sausage calabrese style, sliced sausages stewed with silky peppers, onions, and tomatoes served atop hearty polenta. Our server enthused that he's been happily eating this dish for dinner every night he's worked so far.

The spiedini di mozzarella is a slab of fresh mozzarella with a crispy exterior and a gooey interior in a bright sauce, made only with tomatoes, anchovies, white wine and lemon juice.

Carpaccio alla cipriani is a plate of paper-thin slices of tender beef topped with peppery arugula and a little drizzle of creamy mustard mayo sauce, a deceptively simple, pristine classic.

Arancini tradizionali are made from leftover risotto, mixed with peas, wrapped around nobs of mozzarella cheese, breaded and fried.  Cracking the shell releases the cheese and rice for a sweet little bath in their classic red sauce.

There is nothing revolutionary on the menu, nothing that will challenge your perceptions of Italian food. Instead, it's stacked with comforting dishes that will reach back into the depths of your childhood memories and extract what was once so enamoring about a plate meatballs.  No, nothing too wild or crazy, just really good classics at a reasonable price.  Attentive service in a classic setting (an appropriate amount of Jimmy Durante and Dean Martin crooning on the sound system) with quality food. That's how we do in St. Paul.

Louis Ristorante
211 W. Seventh St., St. Paul
651. 222.7378; Cossetta's website

Sunday-Thursday 4-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday 4-11 p.m.