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“Do you want an Italian experience or not?”
Review of The Butcher Block Restaurant - CLOSED

The Butcher Block Restaurant
Certificate of Excellence
Price range: $20 - $30
Cuisines: Italian
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Late Night, Reservations
Dining style: Casual Elegant
Cross street: University
Description: Welcome to the Butcher Block, where meat is our passion; organic, grass-fed, and sustainable are our principles; and serving great-tasting food – with or without meat – is our priority.We’re inspired by the cozy neighborhood trattorias you find in Rome and throughout Italy, but we're located right here in Northeast Minneapolis.We chose the name "Butcher Block" in honor of Filippo Caffari, our butcher, who was a skilled master-butcher in Rome for almost two decades, before moving to Minneapolis to become head chef at I Nonni in Mendota Heights. Chef Caffari is one of the finest Italian chefs in the Twin Cities.To accompany our remarkable Italian meals, we offer an extensive Italian and international wine list, as well as many fine domestic wines and beers. Our goal is to fuse the best of Italian culinary skills with the freshest ingredients, so you can experience authentic Italian dining.The only passport required is your love of great Italian food.
Reviewed July 10, 2013

I need to start this review by explaining that I am passionate about a few things in life. These top few things include GREAT food, Italy, family, Italian perspective. I have Italian blood, and it is only a matter of bad timing that I was born in the US. Ahem; I digress.

Walking into the Butcher Block is like walking into an honest-to-goodness, palms slammed down on the table, incredible and honest nothing-but-good-food restaurant, like in my family's small town in Italy.

Imagine it.

There have been books written about American chefs wandering the Italian countryside to find that quirky genius butcher, or that "casareccia" style pasta or sauce or sausage (Bill Buford's "Heat" comes to mind). Now get this: If you live in the Twin Cities, you need only to venture to northeast Minneapolis to find the Culinary Holy Grail. Most certainly this "cauldron possessing certain powers" lies in the kitchen of this modest but very Italian establishment across from Surdyks.

I followed the chef, Filippo, here, after he launched Osteria i Nonni in Lilydale. His following includes a troupe of relocated Italians, Mayo Clinic doctors, the creme dela creme of the Twin Cities investors, professionals, socialites... and a plethora of simpletons like me. Twins fans. Wild fans. Young couples, old couples, family groups, singles, gals or guys on a night out. This is one place where we are all here for one reason: to experience the Italian Table.

Although he is quite modest about it, the owner, Filippo Caffari, is a genius chef. But the genius stems from his first training; an expert butcher. My native Italian friends and family, who are very picky and hate the quality of most food here (especially the meat), have tasted Filippo's prosciutto and all but swooned on the spot. They recognize that he understands how to make Bucatini Amatriciana... all of the "real" ingredients, and no substitutes, go into this, and every meal.

So, I have read reviews like this: "There are no windows". OK -- how many of you have been to the taverne or the small osterie in Italy? I am not saying that tourist stops always have bad food, or that you can't find a decent meal around all of the popular sites in Italy -- maybe you have -- but it is the locals who really know how to eat well. With gusto. Making it not a meal, but an experience. And many of those places are below ground, without windows!

When you are eating Italian style, you are reveling in the food, the wine, and either the bliss of solitude, or the convivial setting where you are surrounded by family and/or friends.

My favorites:

Try whatever they have on the tasting menu. These items may be something available short-term, is very fresh, or for some reason fall into a limited menu rather than the regular menu. I have not been disappointed trying anything off the tasting menu.

As for the regular menu, there are two drop-dead antipasto favorites I must have. These are
1. The Carpaccio, and
2. The Calamari (superceded only by the Octupus, if it is available),
I also like the arancini, and the chef's selection.

I love all of the salads.

The primi (first course) items I love are, of course
1. the Amatriciana... always the Amatriciana. But also
2. The fettuccine with porcini,
3. the rigatoni alla norcina.
4. The risotto is fabulous.

As for the main course, I cannot get past
the lamb chops or
the pork chops.
I have had the liver, which is spectacular, and the duck, which, I might add, is the only duck I have tried and liked in the US.
I have not tried it, but friends have raved about the seared tuna.

The desserts are beautiful and I cannot pick a favorite. I have tried all of them, and it all depends on my mood for the evening. I have really enjoyed both the creme brulee and the gelato whenever they are available.

I really love love love love Filippo's handmade limoncello. I have made my own limoncello, as have my relatives, but I must be honest: his kicks butt on anything we've ever produced.

The wine selections are also delicious. I usually defer to either Filippo's or (if he is working that night) Stefano's advice on which wine to have. They have always picked winners for me. HERE IS THE BONUS: there are many wines on the list are under $25/bottle. So you can have your cake and eat it (with more vino) too.

I hope you will take my review in the spirit in which it was intended. I vascillated between honest urging over the greatness of this place, or saying almost nothing. The latter would ensure that Butcher Block stays small and unbusy enough for me to hoarde and enjoy all to myself.

But, as I mentioned earlier, this is contrary to the Italian experience. And what an Italian experience it is here. Stop in, give some of the aforementioned menu items a try, and tell them Caterina sent you.

But only if you want some [--] fabulous Italian food.

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2  Thank 2RomeSoon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (142)
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94 - 98 of 142 reviews

Reviewed July 5, 2013

Food was decent but did not like atmosphere. Very loud & no windows. Waitress looked like she should be from Jersey Shore (although probably from St Cloud) & maitre d very in your face. OK experience but won't go back.

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1  Thank bigtimetraveller1111
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 28, 2013

This has become my "go-to" place. For any occasion from special, to business, to casual drop in, this is my restaurant. Owner, Filippo, welcomes everyone as family. I have been eating here almost on a weekly basis, and have had most things on the menu. I have not been disappointed. I can live on pasta, and the fresh pastas here with authentic Italian recipes, are simple, correctly cooked, and full of flavor. Filippo, a master butcher, pays special attention to the meats. From the Carpaccio and salumi to the main entrees, all are fine meats, and well prepared. This is one of the very few places that I had a pork chop that actually had flavor to it. Good wine selection and full bar. To anyone who cares about fine food, I highly recommend Butcher Block. Oh, the service is also great.

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2  Thank Joe P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 6, 2013

The outside of the restaurant had me a bit leary about going in but I had a groupon so we went in. The inside of the restaurant is much better than the outside. When telling the host we would like seating for two he responded with "no reservaton?" This was the first indication that this restaurant wants to be fancier than it is. Though the restaurant is small there was plenty of seating available. I was happy that when they sat us they didn't choose a spot right next to one of the other 3 or 4 group of customers.. Cloth covered wooden chairs helped provide a warmer atmosphere. The menu is failrly limited, pasta, a steak, chicken parmaganna, a couple of other things. They have a nice selection of wines and a full bar though no blended drinks available. We had a meatball appetizer which was good but could have been hotter. The rest of the food was okay. My friend ordered the chicken parmaganna. He said the chicken was moist but not flavorful. I had a risotta dish which I liked but feel I can duplicate by buiying a bag of frozen mushroom risotto and adding some chicken slices to. In my opinion all of the meals were $4 to $8 overpriced. We ended the night with a peanut parfait from the Dairy Queen which we both thought was more enjoyable that the dinner we had.

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2  Thank savytraverlor43323
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 28, 2013

We have been to this restaurant several times and I took my husband there for his birthday. Love love love their food! This time I had the risotto and it was fabulous.

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Thank Beth G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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