Photo by Katherine Harris
The Broder clan.
“I told them to do anything else. Study. Don’t be in the restaurant business,” says Molly Broder, the matriarch, the mom, the guiding star of the Broder family, on considering the third Broder restaurant on a corner of 50th and Penn. That restaurant is Terzo, meaning “third” in Italian, and it’s the first project of the Broder sons: Thomas, executive chef, soon to be 30; general manager/wine guy Charlie, 26; and Danny, 23, the other chef. But why did Molly Broder, with two of Minneapolis’s most popular restaurants—Broders’ Cucina, opened in 1982, and Broders’ Pasta Bar, opened in 1994—tell her sons to stay out of the business? “Restaurants are crazy for how much everything costs to make a bottom line. There’s a lot of labor, a lot of food cost, a lot of everything. Concepts in restaurants are easy, but execution is hard. So now they’ve seen what it is to work 20 hours a day seven days a week and live on naps while your mom follows you around with spreadsheets saying: ‘We’re spending too much money, we’re spending too much money!’”
Well, from this side it looks worth it. Terzo fits seamlessly into the Broders’ firmament, a chic wine bar that combines the best of Broders’ Cucina, such as exceptionally well-sourced and cared-for Italian cured meats and cheeses, with the casual, humble, easy execution of Broders’ Pasta Bar, with a twist: namely, fine Italian wines and food presented on small plates for easier sharing.
The must-orders are, above all, the meats and cheeses. The prosciutto board is a sight to behold, with cresting pink waves of three different sorts of the king of all hams: a version that cured for 500 days in Italian breezes until something transcendent happened, an Iowa La Quercia version like butter, and a third more vinous Italian version. Pair it with a glass of prosecco when it’s hot out (a glass is free before 6 pm with a $10 food purchase) or a voluptuous barolo when the days turn cold, and it’s a course that is nothing short of the Italian ideal incarnate: superb ingredients presented simply. The same can be said for the salami board, with lush lardo, feisty wild boar sausage, spindly grissini breadsticks as long as a cat, and half a dozen other bites with flair. The house mortadella is not to be missed: plump and creamy squares of plush posh pink pig, like flesh custard. As the Cities’ leading burrata snob, I ordered the burrata—that fresh flashpoint between butter and fresh mozzarella—skeptically: Would it be ice-cold, drowned in sweet balsamic, or otherwise maliciously mangled, as is our regional custom? No. The burrata was presented as it should be, like a jewel on a cushion, warm enough to taste, chill enough to maintain its integrity, with a sprinkle of salt and the confidence that it was a cheese that needed no kitchen assistance. It didn’t. It was sublime.
The menu at Terzo is not all straight from the investment banker’s side of the deli case; all told, there are about two dozen kitchen-made plates. The best are the straight-from-Italy simple options: Calabrian peppers slit the long way are filled with a tangy stripe of herbed goat cheese, each bite a bracing bit of hot-tart. Fried baby artichokes are crisp and a fine vehicle for the gobbling of lemon aioli. The vitello tonnato is a classic old dish that most Italian chefs around here are too fancy to serve, as it’s little more than sliced chilled meat with a specially flavored mayo, but the Terzo version is magically humble: Paper-thin sheets of pink and delicate veal are tiled on a plate, dotted here and there with circles of tuna emulsion, the circles topped with cross-section slices of caperberries, like so many bull’s-eyes, and to one side a microgreens salad, to better showcase the richness of the veal. It’s as assured an Italian plate as I’ve ever seen in the Twin Cities, and it conveys a deep understanding of what Italian food is (pared to its essential greatness) and is not (too much junk on a plate).
I did encounter a few what-the-hell dishes: a pistachio-crusted frog leg that tasted like any generic chicken nugget, a pan-seared white bass so understated it vanished, a rabbit involtini in which the dull meat was absolutely overshadowed by the rabbit’s exuberant garden with which it was accompanied. If your tolerance for head-scratchers is low, you might want to save your entrée pennies and spend them on the rest of the menu and desserts, which are a high point in local Italian pastry arts. The taleggio sformatini are already, in my mind, local legends. Sformato are Italian eggy custards, and at Terzo three tiny sformatini stand in a jiggly line trembling in gossamer rains of caramel, toasted hazelnuts washed up on their small coasts, and they taste in that regal taleggio way of farms and fairy buttercups. The strawberry semifreddo with lemon sorbetto is an angelic composition of summer flavors, refined and made a heraldic choir, if you go in for that sort of thing. Pair either with a nectarine-and-almond-scented glass of Elio Perrone’s Moscato d’Asti Sourgal and tell me if you start to float.
Speaking of wine, Charlie Broder’s wine list fills the void left in Minneapolis ever since D’Amico Cucina closed. It’s hundreds of bottles long, openly celebrating the totality of Italian wine, from rustic Puglian ox carts to Piedmontese thoroughbreds. While the neighborhood will probably celebrate Terzo mostly for its under-$20 carafes of good country wines, it’s the jaded old wine-heads who will find their socks knocked off, as options like the Dorico 1993 Montepulciano from Moroder spin through. Really? Wine older than the pasta bar? “What can I say? I got the bug, man,” says Charlie Broder, who runs the wine list and seems to greet every grown-up and kid who passes through the door at Broders’ with the easy familiarity of the kid on the corner who has been shoveling snow and running a lemonade stand for 20 years. In fact, he started in the family business when he was 11, bussing tables, and after a brief sojourn in Asia realized that this was his corner. “I am so thoroughly fascinated by wine, and what wine is, it just consumes me. I started buying wines for the pasta bar when I was 21. I’ve definitely made some off-the-wall decisions which didn’t work, but I learned what did work too. I always had the advantage of my boss being my mom, and after my father passed on, I realized: Family is the most important thing to me, and wine and food are my passion, so here we are.”
Speaking of where they are: Do the Broders have their eye on the final corner of 50th and Penn, to make their Italianization of the cross streets complete? “I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that,” laughs Molly Broder. “I’d have all my debts from Terzo paid off, and I would go get it!” What would they put there? “Oh, I think the kids would figure that out. I remember trying to get catering orders out when Thomas was 3 years old. I’d set him on a stool and give him some pizza dough. Here, play with this. He loved it. Later, I remember he would just sit there and watch the tortellini coming out of the tortellini machine, one after the other. So they’ve been thinking about Italian food for quite a while.” 2221 W. 50th St., Mpls., 612-925-0330, broders.com