I Nonni Happy Hour in Lilydale Offers Frugal Fine Dining
It's hard to find happy hours at fine dining restaurants in the Twin Cities. What are diners with expensive tastes but limited budgets to do? Osteria I Nonni offers one solution.
I Nonni, an upscale Italian restaurant in Lilydale, has earned praise for its authentic cuisine since it opened in 2002. The restaurant's happy hour, however, seems to have gone unnoticed, judging by the nearly empty bar on a recent weekday. It's too bad, because this happy hour deserves more attention.
The approach to happy hour at I Nonni is standard: half-priced appetizers (antipasti); $1 off drinks; and $10 carafes of red or white house wine, enough for about three glasses. The deals are available 4 p.m.-6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
The suburban space is carefully decorated, with high ceilings, tall windows, a granite-topped bar, and glass light fixtures that look like mass-produced versions of Dale Chihuly's glasswork. Inevitably, some reviewers reference "McMansions" when describing the space and its surroundings.
The restaurant's menu is Italian home-cooking; I Nonni means "grandparents" in Italian. (Remember Tomie dePaolo's "Strega Nona," about the Italian grandmother with the magical pasta pot?) Pizzas, predictably, are popular, but other antipasti, while less familiar to most diners, also come recommended. Pork tonnato is pork loin topped with seared tuna, a caper aioli, and watercress, and it makes for a meaty, savory starter. Olives with citrus and fennel served as a salty finger food, though the bigger varieties aren't a dainty snack, since the olives are not pitted. Beef carpaccio, thinly sliced raw beef served with arugula and shavings of parmesan cheese, is another dish to satisfy carnivores looking for something classier than sliders on their happy hour menu.
The bill is a pleasant surprise: a carafe of wine and the above-mentioned three appetizers cost just $30, including tax and tip.