Scusi – St. Paul {Closed}

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I’ve been to Scusi a few times before.

My first experience was about a year ago when a friend of mine was in town and we had just enough of a window of time to meet for brunch. She brought a couple of in-laws with her. It was perfect because Scusi is known for its “family style” and dishes are meant to share. Plates are on the table when you arrive.

The plates are on the table when you arrive, but not the wine!

Once you put your order in, dishes come out as they are ready, not all at once. This part is more tapas-style than family-style. I like it. If you don’t like to share, this place is not for you. But I think it’s more fun to get a taste of several different items than just one entrée. I remember loving just about everything we ordered for brunch that day (including the bottomless mimosas!) However, one particular item stands out in my mind – the Smoked Gouda Hash Browns. {Picture the heavens parting here.} I’m not a huge fan of smoked cheeses, but something about those pieces of potato-and-cheesy goodness made them a thing of beauty.

Unfortunately, Scusi is no longer open for brunch. 😦

Somehow, Scusi needs to find a way to make those Smoked Gouda Hash Browns part of their main menu!

Pretty please?

Since then, Rob and I have been there on several occasions during the evening. The first time, we had reservations, but still had to wait – maybe we arrived too early? My memory is failing me on that part. We made our way in to the packed, narrow bar area to select from the wide array of wines by the glass. {More on that in a bit.} That night, we ordered a nice salumi platter (the sopressata was my favorite!) and some olives. I’m sure that was also the night I had to try the San Marzano Pasta with Meatballs. Sure, I said that I’m not a fan of spaghetti and meatballs, but Scusi’s menu had me at San Marzano. Rob and I originally experienced these delightful tomatoes on our Honeymoon on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Now I eat them at every possible opportunity.

Of course, we washed our meal down with a good bottle of Italian wine.

The Wine

Scusi has a unique mix of Italian wines and Cal-Itals (California wines made in an Italian style or with Italian grape varietals.) Many of the wines are offered by the glass because they are “on tap”. The “tap” is a wine dispenser system that also helps preserve the wine remaining in any opened bottles. Having so many offerings by the glass gives diners the opportunity to try different wines rather than share a bottle or order a taste of a more expensive wine that would normally be offered by the bottle only.

At Scusi, the smallest size glass a guest can order is a quartino. This is equivalent to about a glass and a half or about a third of a bottle. The wine is served in a mini carafe so that the guest can top off the wine at his or her leisure. Wines can be ordered by the mezzo (half-bottle) or the bottiglia (bottle), as well.

We’ve found that when we’ve ordered red wines by the glass at Scusi, they’ve been a little too cold for our liking. While there is a misconception that red wine should be served warm or room temperature {it should be more like cellar or basement temperature}, our red wines seemed like they had just been taken out of the fridge. We felt that the temperature really masked the flavors these wines had to offer.

On our third visit, we sat at the bar again, but decided to order a bottle due to our experience with the temperature of wines by the glass. As she opened our bottle of Super Tuscan, our bartender said, “We just got a new system, so you may need to let it warm up a bit.”. Um yeah – like a good half hour. I’m sure not going to wait around that long to drink wine at a restaurant. They must have kept the bottles in a cooler as well? Our glasses immediately fogged up from the cold wine when it hit the glass. We had to hold both hands around our glasses to try to bring the wine down to a desirable temperature.

The Food

We’ve ordered different dishes on each visit. In no specific order, here are our thoughts on some of them:

  • Shrimp Oreganata – I was looking for something a little healthier when I ordered this, but it was unimpressive. I expected more flavor.
  • San Marzano Pasta with Veal Meatballs – Savor every bite! It’s worth it!
  • Pizza – Rob ordered pizza and while I thought it was good, I remember that he thought the crust hadn’t much flavor. However, when I asked him recently to comment, he couldn’t. He just said that it wasn’t very memorable.
  • Short Ribs – Rob said they were nothing special, but fairly priced.
  • Truffled Mushroom Lasagne – I think this was the best dish we’ve ever had a Scusi! It was the featured special of the day, so you won’t find it on their regular menu. 😦 I did notice; however, that it was one of the specials during Restaurant Week.
  • Chocolate Cake – This was the cake I talked about in my Quality over Quantity post. I wanted a bite of rich dark chocolate and I got a humongous piece of not-so-great cake.
  • Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream An absolute highlight! You are going to be surprised by how good this is!
  • See below for detailed info on our food from our most recent visit…

Our Most Recent Visit:

We made reservations and sat in the restaurant. We couldn’t decide on a wine and eventually ordered a Cal-Ital recommended by our server. Although still slightly chilled, it came to our table at a much more acceptable temperature than on our previous visits.

Once again, we started with the Salumi Platter:

The sopressata remains my favorite!

Rob’s pasta:

Tortellini with Sausage Ragout

Rob was not impressed: “While the tortellini were packed with cheese and cooked nicedly, the dish overall was very bland and the sauce was essentially red water.” I tried the dish. He was right. It was lacking flavor. Neither the sausage nor the sauce had it.

My pasta:

Shrimp Ravioli with Vodka-Rose Sauce

This dish was so flavorful that it would be what Rob calls “ridiculous!” or “just silly.” I love it when he uses that to describe food he really loves! Since he wasn’t able to taste this pasta due to his seafood allergies, I described my dish to him as such. While the sauce made it somewhat rich, I’d get this again in a heartbeat.

Dessert:

Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream (alongside a scoop of vanilla)

When we found out that they were again offering Izzy’s Graham Cracker Ice Cream, Rob said he wouldn’t share! I had to get my own. When I asked him to tell our blog readers his thoughts, he said, “Nothing tastes better in Minnesota than this ice cream. Enjoy in moderation…no more than 6 bowls.” While he says that for emphasis, he could barely finish his two scoops and I most certainly did not finish mine! I guess this is a rare occasion when you get quality and quantity.

While we love the wine bar concept of Scusi, we find the restaurant to be a little inconsistent in both its wine and food. The next time we go, I’d like to try the cheese plate and give the wines by the glass another shot. We’ll just have to get there early to get a seat at the bar. And if the Truffled Mushroom Lasagne or Smoked Gouda Hash Browns find their way onto the menu, those just might be ordered, too. 🙂

Have you been to Scusi? If so, what did you like about it? Do you have a favorite Italian Restaurant or Wine Bar?

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