Minneapolis is a favorite travel destination year round for people from all corners of the globe. There are an abundance of things to do and see in every season. Downtown Minneapolis offers a wide variety of entertainment for people of all ages. The city is home to a renowned theater district. There are also several professional sports arenas where fans can watch baseball, football, basketball and soccer games. You can also find dozens of different bars, clubs and other types of live music venues downtown, many of which are in walking distance from one another.
Another thing that Minneapolis is famous for is food. The city is known to be a cultural paradise for food lovers. There are dozens of restaurants in town, each one offering something uniquely different. Everything from fast food burgers and fries to elegant five course dinners and more can be found in this town. Because there are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from, I’m going to narrow down my list to the 5 Best Italian Restaurants in Minneapolis. Each of them has been highly ranked by food critics and patrons for years. They are all worth stopping in for a bite whenever you’re in town.
5 Best Italian Restaurants in Minneapolis
5. Broders’ Pasta Bar
We open our 5 Best Italian Restaurants in Minneapolis article with the great Broder’s Pasta Bar. Located on Penn Avenue, this Minneapolis restaurant has been in business for 25 years. They serve both homemade and imported pastas and risottos. Most of their dishes contain ingredients that are either obtained from local farms or are grown right in their own parking lot garden during the warmer months. They also have a nice selection of Asian foods and vegetarian options.
The restaurant does not take reservations, but once you’re inside, you’re encouraged to find a table in their outdoor patio. They are known for their nice selection of wines and their friendly, attentive wait staff. Broders’ is a great place to relax and unwind after a busy day.
Signature menu items:
1. Pasta Risotto. Cannoli rice with ramp pasta, served with English peas, fava beans, herbs and lemon. A masterful mix of unique flavor combinations. One of the most requested items!
2. Spaghetti Carbonara. Made with parmigiano, pancetto, pecorino Romano, egg and cream. Makes a great meal for one or can be ordered off of the date night menu, which includes seasonal or caesar salad, marinated olives and a half-bottle of wine. Perfect choice for a late night meal.
3. Blueberry Torta. Served with blueberry crema, almonds and white chocolate. A decidedly different dessert option. Great way to complete a satisfying meal!
4. Punch Neapolitan Pizza
Punch is one of the most popular and most unique pizzerias in Minnesota. You can stop in for a quick slice or two while you’re on your way to a concert or sporting event, or you can take the time to eat indoors and watch your pizza being made in one of their wood-fired ovens. The restaurant is right next to the University of Minnesota campus, so it’s a popular hangout for college students when school is in session.
The restaurant offers a nice selection of thin and thick crust pizzas all made with fresh ingredients. Punch also has some tasty salads and desserts. There are vegetarian choices on the menu, and you can even make your own pizza if you want. It may be a bit more expensive than other casual dining options, but the quality and service are well worth the price.
Signature menu items:
1. Milanese Pizza. Made with basil, gorgonzola, ham and roasted red peppers, this pizza offers a nice variety of flavors for your taste buds. It also comes with crushed tomatoes and mozzarella. One of their top sellers!
2. Dino Z. This popular pizza is made with garlic, onion and oregano. Fresh parmesan cheese, mixed greens and balsamic vinegar are added after it’s taken out of their wood-fired oven. A nice blend of temperatures and tastes that you can’t get anywhere else.
3. Greco salad. A nice lunch or dinner option at an affordable price. Made with Romaine lettuce, feta cheese, cucumber, pepperoncini and served in a red wine vinaigrette. A delectable salad available in both small and large portions, depending on your appetite.
3. Prima Italian Restaurant
Prima is one of the best Italian restaurants for family dining in Minneapolis. They offer a fantastic selection of pastas, salads, panini and fresh meat and seafood options. Their entire menu is made from ingredients grown locally at their family farm in nearby Waconia, Minnesota.
The restaurant offers a nice children’s menu, daily specials and all of their offerings are available for dining in or carry out. They also offer take home family style meals and are a popular catering choice for businesses and individuals. Prima offers fine dining in a quiet atmosphere. There is free parking available in the rear of the building, and the staff are frequently complimented for their expert advice and attention to detail with every order.
Signature menu items:
1. Crispy Fried Gnudi. Hand-made ricotta dumplings served with wild mushrooms, roasted cauliflower, leeks, swiss chard, pancetta and drizzled with a porcini mushroom cream sauce. A tasty meal that fills you up whether you’re in the restaurant or on the go. One of the best gnudi dishes in the state!
2. Penne with Lamb Sausage. Smoked lamb sausage directly from nearby Buffalo Creek Farm. It’s served with grilled green beans, peppadew peppers, caramelized onions, red pepper cream and ricotta salata. A nice heart-healthy dinner option.
3. Capellini Al Pomodoro. Angel hair pasta served with fresh parmesan cheese, tomato, garlic and basil. Available with shrimp for a nominal charge. Makes a great meal or one or can be shared with friends.
2. Buca di Beppo
Buca is a franchise known for providing quality food in an authentic Italian atmosphere. The restaurant is located across the street from the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis, making it a perfect choice for dinner before or after a show. Buca offers pizzas, pastas, calzones, cannoli, fried calamari, meatballs, soup, salads and much more.
If you’re going to eat here, bring your checkbook or charge card, as menu items can be rather expensive. Many menu items are priced at $20 and up. However, most people don’t mind paying a little more to enjoy heaping portions of hand-made lunch and dinner items. Buca di Beppo is a popular restaurant for groups of all sizes any time of the year.
Signature menu items:
1. Spicy Chicken Rigatoni. Fresh chicken breast served with peas, garlic and crushed red pepper. This concoction is drenched in a spicy rosa sauce. Great for those who like a little kick in their lunch!
2. Quattro Al Forno. One of Buca’s famous stuffed pastas. It’s made with chicken cannelioni, cheese ravioli and manicotti and stuffed pasta shells. A very satisfying dinner selection!
3. Colossal Brownie Sundae. An irresistible dessert that lives up to its name! A dozen brownie squares served with six generous scoops of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. It’s then topped with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry, of course. So good you’ll want to share it with the rest of your table!
1. Pizza Luce.
If you’re going to try a pizza restaurant in Minneapolis, Pizza Luce has to be your first choice! There are several locations for this independent franchise across the state, but the downtown Minneapolis location is the one that most residents and visitors from out of town frequent. They’re known for having the best pizza in Minneapolis, but they also serve delicious pastas, salads, hoagies and desserts.
Visitors often spend their time at the Uptown Pizza Luce enjoying a good meal and good weather outside on their patio. It’s a great place to grab a bite to eat before a concert or ball game, and an ideal place to catch up with family and friends. Their fresh-made foods, attentive staff and comfortable atmosphere make Pizza Luce an important stop whenever you’re in town.
Signature menu items:
1. Baked Potato Pizza. One of the most Minnesota dishes you’ll ever see. This pizza is made with fresh hand-tossed dough. The pizza is topped with garlic-infused baby red mashed potatoes, cheddar cheese, broccoli, tomatoes and sliced bacon. Served with a side of sour cream, this pizza has to be tried to be believed! A welcome diversion from the same old pizzas that most of us are used to.
2. Lucky Birds Nuggets. A nice vegan option that’s also perfect for non-vegans. These buffalo-style mock chicken drumsticks are breaded and baked. They are served with celery and your choice of ranch, blue cheese sauce, barbecue, sweet chili sauce or sweet chili peanut sauce. A great snack or appetizer!
3. Muffuletta. One of Pizza Luce’s signature hoagies. Their take on the New Orleans standard includes thinly sliced ham, Genoa salami, provolone cheese and fresh muffuletta olives. These sandwiches are served on fresh baked bread and are a tasty, low-calorie lunch alternative.
All of the above restaurants also offer vegan and gluten-free options. They also have their full menus online at their websites. There are so many other deserving Italian restaurants that I could have mentioned, but these five are the cream of the crop. They stand out above the rest because of their award-winning dishes, affordable choices and superior service. You may want to visit one or two of them or all five during your next trip to Minneapolis. Each of them offers a unique dining experience that’s bound to leave you coming back for more.