Photo by Eliesa Johnson
Il Foro is coming in to view, and here’s a shocker: It’s got former Borough star chef Joe Rolle at its head.
Il Foro, of course, is the new Italian spot going into Minneapolis’ most historically significant restaurant space, born as the Forum Cafeteria and most memorably given a long run as foundational Minneapolis restaurant Goodfellow. The grand Art Deco lady’s next run will be as an Italian spot, by the new Minneapolis restaurant-owning power-quad now going by the name the Four Sevens, who are: Jack Riebel, director of cuisine (formerly of Butcher & the Boar, the Dakota, and La Belle Vie); Lorin Zinter, general manager (former co-owner of Heyday); Kevin Fitzgerald (co-owner Smack Shack); and Josh Thoma (of Smack Shack, formerly of Solera, Barrio, La Belle Vie, and D’Amico Cucina.)
Joe Rolle, of course, has been the power in the kitchen at well-reviewed Borough, known for his Champagne soups and the best cheeseburger in town, down at Parlour. But did you know that Rolle, a northern Minnesota native, had his first real cooking job at the side of Jack Riebel at the Dakota? True! The two cooked together on and off for maybe six years in total, as Rolle also followed Riebel to Butcher & the Boar.
“I’ve had a relationship with him for a while, and I trust him,” Riebel told me. “And he’s a super-talented guy who needs an opportunity, and I can give him one. Which feels awesome. And he’s an Italian kid from the Iron Range! So he’ll be doing his grandpa’s rabbit cacchiatore.” Of course, an Italian kid from the range brings one dish to mind for a true Minnesotan: Iron range porchetta. Will it be on the menu? “Yeah!,” Riebel said.
Timeline? They’re waiting on some Italian floor tiles for the main dining area—yes, the green carpet is gone—and after those are in Riebel expects a quick opening, perhaps the end of June?
While I had him on the phone I had to ask about Riebel’s other project, the rebirth of one of St. Paul’s most historic projects, the Eisenhower-era steakhouse The Lexington. Short story: Maybe an August opening? Long story: They’re almost done with the roof, which needed to be rebuilt and enhanced to support a 120-seat ballroom and event center, as well as new bathrooms, kitchens, and patio for the large rooftop patio. When the roof is finally finished interior renovations of the lower floors and kitchens will begin.
“It’s a top-down project, literally,” Riebel said. “You can’t do anything until the roof is done, and the roof is almost done.”
Un-named Mike DeCamp Italian Update
Remember how Mike DeCamp, the 20-year second-in-command to Tim McKee at La Belle Vie, announced he’d be leaving his home on April 1 to join Jester Concepts and execute their vision of turning the former Porter & Frye into a two-level restaurant and bar, like Borough and Parlour, in what we will now call the Mullet Formation, all business up front and a party down below? Well that’s the same Jester Concepts that has seen a great cook exodus lately—with Rolle leaving for Il Foro, as above, Nick O’Leary leaving for Smack Shack, Tyler Shipton leaving to move to California—leaving young Drew Yancey in charge at Borough, and now Josh Hedquist top toque at Coup d’Etat.
But what is planned for the unnamed Italian spot, which for the purposes of convenience we will now call Il Mullet? Quite a lot. DeCamp tells me demolition is complete and construction has begun, that treacherous enormous staircase is gone, and a slight little straight-line staircase has been built. With the current configuration, it’s looking like the restaurant seats around 80, the new patio on 2nd Avenue will seat around 30, and the new bar will maybe seat 50.
Speaking of the bar: What kind of bar food can we expect? Hot dogs! DeCamp says. “We are going to have a special hot dog, it’s a hot mortadella served sort of Chicago style, with violet mustard and Calabrian chilies.” Er, what? “Have you ever had hot baloney? It’s fantastic. This is basically the same, but not smoked. I’m also really in to baking. I’m making all the buns.” Well: I’m in! Hot mortadella dogs all around. Up in the fancy, all-business part of Il Mullet, DeCamp says the restaurant will have a crudo bar, and will have a strong suit in hand-made pastas. Best guess on an opening date? Late spring.