Cindy loves the Uptown shopping and entertainment district in Minneapolis and on our trip to the Twin Cities during our vacation this summer, we found ourselves in Uptown around lunch time. Trying to figure out where to eat, Cindy's eye caught an Italian restaurant on W. Lake Ave. - Amore Victoria. (see map) She said, "Italian sounds good for lunch, don't you think?" I sort of shrugged my shoulders and drove back around the block and found a parking spot in front of the restaurant.
Actually, Amore Victoria was a shot in the dark for us. But after eating there and doing some research on the place, it turns out that its one of the more popular Italian restaurants in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Chef Alex Victoria and his wife, Jenna, run the corner bistro combining an old world flair for both decor and recipes with a strong neighborhood appeal that welcomes locals and visitors alike. It's a warm and inviting place.
Chef Alex does his best to source local organically raised foods and meats for his menu. The chicken Amore Victoria uses is always fresh, never frozen. The beef is naturally-raised and hormone free. Their seafood is from the wild and not farm-raised. The food changes through the seasons due to availability, but Alex Victoria maintains a constant progressive Italian cuisine served throughout the year.
We walked into the restaurant and was greeted by a hostess who asked us if we wanted to eat on the roof patio or inside. It was a pretty warm day and we decided to eat in the restaurant. She took us to a plush maroon booth along the north wall with a large window looking out onto Lake Ave. and dropped off a couple lunch menus.
The main dining room of Amore Victoria features a large bar across the east side of the room with tables and chairs in the middle on the hardwood floor. Maroon banquette seating goes along the west wall with antique light fixtures hanging from a white-painted tin ceiling. The large windows allowed a flood of natural light to enter the room giving the restaurant the feeling that you were in an old world Italian bistro.
There is a smaller room off the main dining room that has a brick wall along the west side with a number of tables and chairs throughout the room. A stairwell down to the basement and Amore Victoria's wine cellar is along the west wall.
Our waiter for the day, Diego, came over to greet us. He told us of a couple lunch specials and wanted to know what we wanted to drink. Cindy got a glass of their house chardonnay and I got a Peroni. I don't remember what the specials were because I had seen something on their menu that had caught my eye right off the bat.
They had this dish - Tortellacci All Panna - that was a homemade pasta pillow stuffed with veal with mushrooms, prosciutto and parmesan cheese in an organic cream sauce. Yow! I didn't even have to look at anything else on the menu.
They had a number of chicken entrees on the menu, and Cindy was taking a look at some of theme. But she said in anguish, "They all have mushrooms with them!" She doesn't care for mushrooms at all. The only one or two things that make us incompatible in our marriage. I'd cook with mushrooms each night, if I could.
She turned her attention to the pasta dishes and saw the Pasta Creazione at the top. It featured your choice of five different types of pasta, then you could top your pasta with Bolognese sauce with meatballs or Italian sausage (or Bolognese plain), a pesto or creamy pesto sauce, a pomodoro or marinara sauce, or the aglio olio (garlic, red pepper, olive oil).
Down below that she found Amore Victoria's fettuccine alfredo - house made fettuccine noodles in a cream sauce with parmigiano cheese and garlic. For an extra $3 bucks, she could get grilled chicken chunks with the pasta. Cindy ended up taking that for lunch along with a small house salad with the homemade Italian dressing.
After we ordered, Diego brought out a small basket of homemade bread along with Cindy's salad. The bread was just out of this world. The bread was soft, chewy and over-the-top in taste. With a little bit of olive oil, parmesan cheese and black pepper mixed together for dipping, the bread was fantastic. I had to make sure that I wouldn't gorge myself on the bread for fear of not being able to eat my pasta.
When Diego brought out the pasta dishes, I was sort of surprised at the size of the lunch portions they served. I thought, "Whoa, this is a lot of food!" The size of the bowls were a little deceiving, however. Quite actually, the rim of the bowls were pretty wide and they weren't very deep. It looked like a lot of food, but I would have to say I had seven or eight of the tortallacci pillows stuffed with ground veal swimming in a wonderful parmesan cream sauce with chunks of prosciutto and mushrooms. In a word, it was outstanding.
Cindy's fettuccine alfredo with the chicken featured wide, but thin egg noodles in a rich alfredo cream cheese sauce. Small chunks of grilled chicken were throughout the bowl with the pasta. She said, "Oh, my God! This is so good, but it is so rich!" She knew she was going to have trouble finishing the whole meal. She made a significant dent in the fettuccine before declaring she was full. Then she had a couple more bites. Cindy said, "This is so good that I can't stop eating it." She finished the chicken and left only a couple of mounds of fettuccine noodles at the bottom of the bowl.
I was able to finish all of my tortallacci with the mushrooms and prosciutto. If I ever get back to Amore Victoria - which I will - I will get the tortallacci stuffed with veal. Again and again. I know they probably have a number of wonderful things on the menu, but the tortallacci was unbelievably great.
Diego's service was good, but then again, we were only one of three tables that were occupied in the place as it was nearly 2 p.m. when we got there. Still, he was attentive and on top of things for us.
After we finished up and took care of the check, we asked to see the upstairs roof top dining area. The hostess told us to go out the back into the parking lot and up the steps in back. Hold it, there's a parking lot at Amore Victoria? There sure is! It's a pretty big one, too. Guess we didn't need to park on the street out front and give the city of Minneapolis $1.50.
We walked up the wide stairs to the roof and came across a nice little area with approximately two dozen tables, a bar area, a skylight in the middle and an herb garden on the far side. It was hot on the roof and the waiters working the area were all dressed in black shirts and pants. We were glad we decided to eat inside as even with the shade from the umbrellas it would have been somewhat uncomfortable up there. Cindy asked one of the waiters, "Aren't you guys hot up here in those black shirts?"
The waiter said, "Oh, yeah. You just keep moving and try to find the shade when you can. And we drink a lot of water."
I asked the waiter how long the rooftop seating had been in place. He said they opened it up a year ago in the summer. "Rooftop dining is the rage now in the Uptown area," he explained. "One of the councilwomen for this district wanted to limit the amount of places that do rooftop dining, but we just went ahead and did it anyway." Evidently, she was worried about noise from the rooftop would disturb people living in the area. But I don't know how they could hear people talking on the rooftop at Amore Victoria over the street noise from Lake Ave.
I just found a new favorite Italian restaurant in Minneapolis. Amore Victoria was a wonderful find and one that I will definitely be back to in the future. I get a hankering for good Italian food when I'm in Minneapolis, but I haven't found a place that knocked me for a loop like Amore Victoria did. Probably the last good Italian restaurant I ate at in the Twin Cities was Pronto in downtown Minneapolis - a place that is long gone. But now that Amore Victoria is on my radar, I'll be back. I can't wait to get the tortallacci again and again and again... (Photo at left courtesy Amore Victoria's Facebook page.)