This past weekend I crammed into the car with The Wife and The Rooster on a beautiful morning to head over to RedRossa Italian Grille for some pizza and beer. The popular wood-fired pizza place from South Dakota opened its first Minnesota location near the Mall of America a few months back and has received plenty of mixed reviews. However with MSPD suggesting that it was one of the better lunch options surrounding an area generally devoid of any decent dining.
We arrived after 11:30 AM to find an enormously vacant restaurant. With seating for several hundred but only two tables full at lunch time I had to admit I was a little surprised that RedRossa has survived as long as it has. When the waiter came by later he noted that they are usually very slow on the weekends but a brisk lunch business keeps them going. To be honest, I seriously doubt having a staff of at least seven working the three occupied tables is a sustainable business model for a restaurant of this size.
We had previously looked over the online menu but assumed their lunch specials would be weekdays only. Much to our surprise, the lunch specials were available and at $8 for a half pizza and salad they seemed like the perfect fit for The Wife.
We eventually placed our orders for Calamari Fritti ($10), Quattro Formaggi with the addition of goat cheese and spicy salami ($9 + $1.00 + $1.25 respectively), kids Mac & Cheese with fruit and a scoop of ice cream ($6), and the 1/2 Margherita and 1/2 Casear ($8). I also noticed that in addition to the usual domestics and Summit they had both Flat Earth and Fulton on tap and I ended up ordering two Sweet Child of Vines ($6/ea) to accompany my lunch.
While the restaurant was completely empty and devoid of life I have to admit that it took an extremely long time for our food to arrive. Unfortunately once the food did begin to arrive it did so all at once. While The Wife jokingly suggested that I didn’t ask that the appetizer come out before the rest of the food, I wondered how our server ended up messing up like that.
The Calamari Fritti, described as “lightly dusted roasted red pepper, pepperoncini, lemon and marinara” was served in a similar style to the calamari at Andiamo in Eagan as it was brimming with lightly breaded peppers including pepperoncinis. The portion was ample and the price competitive, especially in the area around MoA, however the marinara was certainly smaller than the rest of the dish would have commanded. The calamari was tender, light and flavorful. The peppers brightened the dish nicely and the roasted lemon provided a much sweeter flavor than the bitter acid that the usual fresh lemon wedges usually provided do. Overall I really enjoyed the calamari and would certainly order it again. Yum.
The Rooster’s Mac & Cheese wasn’t your typical boxed meal. Instead it was a very large portion (certainly enough for three or four children his age) of armoniche rigatoni loaded with white cheese and garlic. The cheese was creamy and the garlic added just the right amount of flavor to make this kids meal one worthy of adults as well. In addition the side of fruit (there were numerous other side options as well) was quite fresh and varied. The Rooster took some of the Mac and Cheese but stuck mainly to the fruit nearly polishing it all off.
The Wife’s 1/2 Caesar and Margherita was a nice sized portion for lunch. The salad was fresh and included croutons, tomatoes, onions, and freshly sliced cheese however the dressing left much to be desired flavor-wise. The pizza wasn’t what I normally think of when someone says Margherita but it included the usuals with the addition of overcooked basil leaves and under-ripened tomato slices. The Wife was particularly perturbed that while the menu didn’t say that it included oregano, it did. I thought the slices were fine but I certainly prefer just about any other local pizza place’s margherita to RedRossa’s.
My Quattro Formaggi (gorgonzola, fontina, fresh mozzarella, smoked mozzarella, roasted garlic, olive oil, and oregano but no sauce) came with my addition of spicy salami and goat cheese. The pizza was a bit small for $11.25 but carried some decent cheese flavor. The spicy salami wasn’t even close to what you can find at other places charging similar prices for these sorts of pies (Lola and Black Sheep) but overall the pie was fine and one I’d order again.
When it was all said and done our tab came to nearly $55. While this is overpriced the $12 in beer and $6 kids meal is what tipped the scales over the astronomical price I felt we paid at Lola. Comparatively I’d still rather eat at RedRossa both because it’s closer to home and also because the pizzas are more agreeable to The Wife. That said, on our next visit we’ll come for lunch and each get the $8 specials and try to keep the total under $25.
Overall I find RedRossa to be serviceable wood-fired pizza. The crust and cheeses are nice but the additional toppings fall a little flat. Aside from the food I really don’t see their lunch time business carrying them through if the restaurant is really that dead on the weekends and I would expect that you won’t see them open for too much longer unless something changes.
Have you ever eaten at RedRossa in Bloomington or any of their other locations? If so what did you think? How do you think it compares to other similar pizza places around town both in price and toppings? Whatever you have to say about RedRossa go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear your thoughts.
See all the pictures from RedRossa Italian Grille on Flickr here.