25 March 2014

Pre-Italy wine tasting in S. Mpls: Terzo

My wife and I made it to Terzo before we went to Italy. My goal was to sample an array of Italian wines so that we’d be more knowledgeable when it was time to order in-country.

I had hoped to do a custom flight of Tuscan wines – chianti, sangiovese, and Brunello. Regrettably, Terzo didn’t have just exactly what I wanted “al bicchiere” (by-the-glass). They did, however, have three Tuscan wines on the menu; one was a Chianti, one a Sangiovese blend, and a Montepulciano. We ordered a half glass of each. Our server recommended what order to try them. All were good. My wife liked the Chianti best, and I liked the Montepulciano.

TerzoNow, a word about Terzo’s wine menu. Terzo is an Italian wine bar. All of the wines on the menu are Italian, and they have a robust selection of wine by the glass as well as an extensive selection of bottles. Pricing is not cheap, but it is very straightforward. I think the most expensive glass I saw was $20 for a Barolo. Most of the glasses that we tried cost anywhere from $8-14. They serve a 6-ounce pour, which I consider generous. (I usually expect a 5-ounce pour.) You can get a half glass, 3 ounces, for exactly half the price.

Terzo does not do wine flights per se. Instead, you can specify your own ‘flight’ simply by choosing an assortment of half-glasses. If your server is as good as ours was, you can get good advice on choosing a custom flight.

As a wine bar, the food menu is oriented toward small plates and appetizers. They do have 5 or 6 ‘piatti’ which are entrĂ©e sized plates of food. Some of them looked very appealing. But we chose an assortment of small plates. The categories on the menu are ‘cicchetti’ (snacks), bruschetta, salads, and small plates. They do also offer a cheese board, salumi board, and prosciutto. On the snack list, they offer something that I’d call an ‘amuse bouche,’ a one-bite appetizer for $1. (We didn’t get one on our visit.)

Here’s what we did get to eat:

  • Calabrian peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese. There were two nice-sized peppers on the plate. The server said they were not too spicy, but they were too spicy for my wife. I loved them and gladly gobbled them both.
  • Caramelized onion tart. The server was practically bubbling with excitement to tell us that the puff pastry for the tart was made in-house. It was excellent.
  • Two gorgeous seared sea scallops with mini potato chips (made from fingerling potatoes). The scallops were served with a fennel puree and a preserved lemon relish. This was my wife’s favorite dish.
  • A plate of chilled and sliced veal, dotted with tuna emulsion, each dollop topped with a caper berry. My favorite. It was sublime.

I’ve mentioned our server a couple of times in this post. She was fantastic. She was friendly, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and attentive. Her food recommendations were exactly what we wanted. And she did a great job helping us to explore the nuances of Italian wines. I hope all the other servers are as good as Karen.

One more thing about Terzo that I really appreciate; they take reservations. Terzo, in case you didn’t know, is the No. 3 restaurant at the 50th & Penn intersection of Minneapolis owned by the Broder family. The Cucina is a deli, and the Pasta Bar is one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. But in order to maintain the ambiance of a neighborhood restaurant, they don’t take reservations. That’s ok on a nice summer evening. If it’s a long wait, you can always stroll down to Lake Harriett. But we don’t have enough of those warm evenings in Minnesota. So we don’t go to the Pasta Bar as often as we otherwise would, because we’re not going to be hassled by bad weather while waiting.

Terzo solves that for us. Half of the tables are available for reservations, and half are kept open for walk-ins. Nice compromise.

We will definitely be back.