On Saturday The Wife and I left The Rooster at home with Mrs. Marcos (thanks!) so that we could celebrate our birthdays in style. While I originally planned to eat at the Bulldog NE and save Eagan’s new restaurant, Andiamo, for a visit with Mr. and Mrs. Marcos in a few weeks, following the review by CityPages, well outside of their normal range, I figured I better get in there and provide something more detailed.
Following a note on Andiamo’s Facebook page that they were expecting a busy night and that reservations were recommended, I called up at 1:30 and made a reservation for two at 6 PM. We arrived a bit early and stood behind a woman who was clearly disappointed that she was being made to wait 30 minutes for a table. I walked up to the hostess, told them our name, and we were seated immediately.
The restaurant, but mainly the bar, was crowded but not filled to capacity by any means. In fact the woman who had been told to wait was seated about 20 minutes later at a table across from us which had been vacant the entire time. While there are many reasons a restaurant does such a thing, I don’t agree with any of them. That said, soon after sitting down we were greeted by our server who throughout the rest of the evening was prompt, fairly confident, and pleasant.
While I had viewed Andiamo’s menu online prior to our visit, I took my time looking it over prior to deciding what I wanted. The menu includes a variety of traditional Italian foods and has appetizers, salads, saucy pasta dishes, entrees and desserts. After deciding on either the short ribs and the cacciatore, I asked our server which she preferred. With much hesitation she does what entirely too many servers do when presented with the question–said said, “oh everything on the menu is my favorite!” Restaurant management, please train your staff to make an informed decision when asked questions like that. Thanks.
After my disappointment in the server’s lack of decision making, we ordered the calamari appetizer (which if we had sat in the bar would have been $4) for $8 to share, The Wife ordered the Chicken Marsala (which our server decided to inform us was made with a sweet wine–as if we didn’t already know) for $11, and I went with the Filetto Cacciatore for $16.
The appetizer was out quickly and was entirely too much for two people to share comfortably and would definitely be enough for three or maybe four to share. I’m always leery of ordering squid in Minnesota as it usually comes out tough and rubbery with too much breading. However, Andiamo’s calamari was tender, lightly breaded, and quite tasty. The marinara sauce was plentiful and later served as a dipping sauce for the bread sticks delivered to the table though it was laced with a pile of red pepper flakes which seemed to be a little much for The Wife. While I held fairly low expectations for the place based on their perceived market–which they nailed based on the discussions of those at tables around us, the background of the owner, the management interview provided, and the reviews of others, I have to admit I was fairly impressed at that point.
About 35 minutes after we placed our orders, and 15 minutes after we finished our appetizer, our entrees arrived at the table. Similar to the calamari, the dinner portions themselves were huge. The Wife remarked that it seemed as if the owner did not know how to serve food except in the Buca tradition and meant for each dish to be shared between three or more people.
The Wife’s Chicken Marsala came with garlic mashed potatoes, several large mushrooms quartered, and two very large pieces of chicken breast. The chicken was moist and tender but I felt the Marsala wine sauce was entirely too sweet. While I thought it was almost sickeningly sweet, The Wife said she loved it. After eating about 1/2 of the dish she saved the rest for the next day–an oversized lunch for sure.
My Filetto Cacciatore also came with garlic mashed potatoes and wasn’t much to look at. While I have never had beef cacciatore (as it’s usually served with chicken in my experience), both the beef and the vegetables were very tender. I also had more than enough for a very filling lunch the next day and was pleasantly surprised that it held up very well in the fridge overnight. While some may compare Andiamo to the Olive Garden, the leftovers don’t congeal into a mass of fat and butter when chilled–which, in my opinion, is a great thing. My sole complaint about the dish comes in that there were entirely too many capers present in the sauce. Before I stopped counting I noted over 20 individual buds. Be forewarned that if you’re not into capers you’ll want to ask that they hold them or you’ll spend hours picking through the dish to rid yourself of them.
After portioning off lunch for the next day we ordered desserts and coffee ($2). The Wife ordered their tiramisu ($6) and I went with the cannoli ($7). The coffees were out quickly and served in mugs which you couldn’t put your finger through the handle. While this may be a normal thing experienced by coffee drinkers (we are not) this isn’t something I was accustomed to and I found it extremely uncomfortable to drink from the cups. The coffee itself, if actually decaf, was extremely strong and I found myself quite wired until a food/coffee coma hit me later that evening.
The tiarmisu was huge–absolutely and utterly huge and could definitely be shared. Again a comment from The Wife about how she believed Buca served it in a similar fashion. The Wife only made it half of the way through, after giving it her best shot, only to have it boxed up to be eaten later that evening at home (no, it didn’t even make it to the next day in what I assume is a ringing endorsement of its quality). While most restaurants list “cannoli” on the menu rarely do they deliver more than one (“cannolo”) but Andiamo came through with two large cannoli over some sort of chocolate on the plate. While the dessert was not as good as I have come to expect from good restaurants I have eaten at on the East Coast, it was certainly passable however the cream was only present on the ends of each pastry and not in the middle. While sharing them with The Wife, I was only able to eat part of the dessert and saved the rest for the next day. After a night in the fridge the cream had solidified and was absolutely excellent the next day. Perhaps they had left mine on a warm plate too long prior to serving it to me last night (or under heat lamps or something) and it had melted the cream a bit. Either way another huge dessert and Andiamo menu item which provided enough for sharing/leftovers.
After it was all said and done (appetizer, two entrees, two desserts, and two coffees) we ended up paying $55.71 before tip. Not exactly as inexpensive as I had imagined when I first started hearing about the prices but certainly not a place that’s going to break the bank if you decide to take advantage of their excellent happy hour specials (bar only) or limit yourself to entrees only.
Overall everything about Andiamo in Eagan was above way average for what they are attempting to do. The service was attentive and friendly, the food was good, the portions were ridiculously large and thus there was plenty for sharing/leftovers. We’ll be back for the happy hours for sure and based on the reactions of those around us (admittedly not those who are well versed in food at all) it appears that many others who dined on Saturday night will be too. While this is a decent place for an Eagan strip mall, it is in no way a replacement for any number of other excellent restaurants around MSP. Go in with expectations of something a bit better than Olive Garden and you’ll be set.
Have you eaten at Andiamo in Eagan? If so what did you think? What did you order and what would you like to order again in the future? Do you plan on eating at Andiamo soon? Whatever you think about Andiamo go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Andiamo Italian Ristorante
1629 Lena Ct
Eagan, MN 55122
See all the pictures from Andiamo in Eagan on Flickr here.