Restaurant Review: Broders’ Pasta Bar & Deli

In the late 1980s, my husband and I caught what I called “local wanderlust.” We didn’t have a lot of money to travel far; we were busy building our careers and loved our house too much to spend much time away from it. So we spent weekends exploring the upper Midwest.

We logged quite a few miles and found some wonderful places. We once drove from Minneapolis to Madeline Island in northern Wisconsin and back in one day! Duluth, a three-hour drive, was a day trip. We discovered the tiny river town of Lanesboro with a shop that offered homemade mustard, root beer, sausages, and buns, and the Iron Range with its pasties and potica. In fact, we once thought about writing a travel book called “Do You Take Checks From the Cities?”

But our favorite thing to do was discover small shops and delis in Minneapolis and St. Paul, buy some wonderful food, then come home to a “bathrobe day”. That meant we’d read, nap, watch movies, and have a feast in our bathrobes. One of the gems we found was Broders, an Italian deli in south Minneapolis.

This small shop, tucked away just off Lake Harriet in a trendy area of south Minneapolis, was a deli back then, with about 10 tables. We discovered focaccia (before it swept the culinary world), and fabulous imported olives, specialty sausages, and fresh homemade pasta. I can still taste the incredible herbed mascarpone cheese spread on warm focaccia bread, topped with a fragrant bruschetta.

That wonderful deli is still there, serving up pasta salads, freshly made pasta dishes such as lasagna and fettuccine, spreads, antipasto, sandwiches, and soups. And a pasta bar across the street was added a few years ago. The sit-down restaurant is open in the evenings and is always packed.

On a recent visit, my husband, my sister, and my two nieces joined me at the deli and had a wonderful time. We ordered their Spinach and Egg Pasta with Ham and Asparagus, which was delicious but a little bland. My husband had to have a couple of slices of pizza; the crisp, tender, and fabulously flavored crust was perfect and the toppings divine.

Pesto Salad made with their homemade farfalle pasta was wonderful. The pesto coating the pasta had a fabulous flavor, and the al dente green beans and pine nuts added a welcome crunch.  The Tacchino turkey sandwich on focaccia bread was a winner too, stuffed with sliced turkey and mixed greens.

Credit: A Nutritionist Eats.com

I could make a meal of their breadsticks alone; chewy and tender, they are topped with Asiago or Parmesan cheese baked right in. Stromboli, a rolled sandwich layered with meats and baked, was delicious served with spicy tomato sauce, but the bottom was a bit soggy.  And we loved the savory and rich Lasagna Siciliana, made with Broders’ homemade egg pasta and homemade Italian sausage.

The real winner at the deli was the Risotto cakes made with butternut squash and served with a creamy Gorgonzola sauce. The rice was perfectly cooked and the cakes were tender and soft, with crisp browned edges. We bought extra to take home!

The desserts were delicious but a bit heavy on the liqueurs for us.  We didn’t like the carrot cake, which tasted a bit like pumpkin, and the cannoli weren’t quite crisp enough. The Pignoli Cookies, which were chewy, crunchy, and flavored with almond, were a hit. My husband, who grew up in Germany, said they reminded him of marzipan. Tl.rlmn he sweet and tart Lemon Pistachio Bars were the definite favorites.

We brought home the Antipasto Salad, rich with salami, marinated peppers, garbanzo beans and olives, tender and sweet Piquillo Peppers that were stuffed with flavorful goat cheese, their mouth-watering homemade meatballs, and the infamous Herbed Mascarpone with a couple of loaves of focaccia bread.

We visited the pasta bar last Saturday. Because they don’t take reservations (but you can call ahead and put your name on the waiting list), and we don’t mind eating early, we arrived just before they opened at 4:30. About 10 people were waiting. When the doors opened, we were seated immediately.  (When we left two hours later, there was quite a line!)

The dining room is welcoming, with deep maroon walls and colanders used as light fixtures. A pasta bar in the center is surrounded with a high counter and bar stools; it filled up immediately. Comfortable tables ring the pasta bar. You can sit outside to eat  on their covered patio when the weather is nice.

Our appetizers included fresh mozzarella marinated with cranberry, orange, celery; it was fabulous. The celery was crunchy, the cranberries sweet, and the mozzarella soft and tender. I ordered the grilled baby artichokes that were served with grilled ciabatta bread; they had wonderful flavor and were the perfect consistency. My husband had an incredible appetizer pizza topped with Fontina cheese and greens. The crust seemed different from the deli pizzas; it was a bit thicker, tender and with a slight crunch.

For entrees, Doug had the Tagliarini di Locanda del Lupo, or house made pasta with prosciutto, truffle pesto and cream. It was simply divine. There is absolutely no comparison between the dried pasta you get in a box and freshly made pasta. Fresh pasta tastes alive! It has depth, texture, and an incomparable flavor. I ordered the Fettuccine con Aragosta, made with lobster, spinach, and herb cream. It was delicious too; the lobster was tender and sweet and the white and green pasta perfectly cooked. Both dishes arrived at our table steaming hot, obviously just tossed in the kitchen.

Then it was time for dessert. We ordered three: the Bestia Nera, or flourless chocolate cake served with crème anglaise, Profiteroles, tiny cream puffs filled with caramel nut ice cream, and the Tiramisu with house made mascarpone. All were wonderful. The cake is simply a dense deep chocolate truffle in cake form, and the profiteroles were creamy and rich. But the Tiramisu was the clear winner. Every fluffy and airy bite literally melted in our mouths, leaving the fabulous flavor of mascarpone and wine.

Broders also has an online store where customers can purchase foods imported from Italy and some of their specialties. So even if you don’t live in the upper Midwest or have wanderlust, you can sample their fabulous fare.

As for me, I’m off to enjoy a slice of flavorful and satisfying focaccia spread with the herbed mascarpone. And plan our next bathrobe day.