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Il Gatto
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I was sad to see Figlio go, but eager to give Il Gatto (its replacement) a try. We went down there on Saturday night before a show for some dinner. I made reservations in advance, because I had a feeling it'd be hopping at 6:00 on a Saturday night, and indeed it was. We were sat right away, but they put us at a table squeezed between two others and the wall. My date literally had the table digging into his sternum because he couldn't move his chair back any further. This was not what I expected after having made reservations. We asked to be moved elsewhere, and they immediately complied, but it made me wonder: if other tables were open, why put us there in the first place?

Anyway--once we were comfy at our new table, we got to peruse the menu. It's smaller than Figlio's was, with a heavier emphasis on seafood. They have a great deal on their house wine all the time (not just happy hour)--$5 gets you a carafe (glass and a half) of either chardonnay or cabernet sauvignon. I got the cabernet--it was fine and lasted me my entire meal.

The apps were all reasonably priced, so we went for two: the house cut fries (which were swoon-worthy) and the goat cheese truffles three ways ($6). The latter was obviously more ambitious than the fries, and while it was a tasty novelty, I don't know that I'd get them again. The fries ($4), however, will keep me coming back:

We deliberated over our entree choices for a while. We were tempted by the Cavatappi, one of the few holdovers from Figlio's old menu, but decided to explore new territory with a couple seafood dishes. Mike got the PASTA STRATOCASTA: guitar-cut black linguini, crab, sea urchin ($17), and I went for the SEARED JUMBO SCALLOPS with roasted mushrooms and two pestos ($25). I sampled Mike's pasta and didn't care much for it. It was ultra briney, like the whole dish had been soaking in the ocean for hours. A seafood fanatic might love it, but it was too much for me.

My scallops, however, were perfection. The mushrooms and slivered potatoes, mixed with the rich cream sauce and impeccably seared scallops, made for an earthy, silky, deep taste sensation, with the pestos providing bright notes in contrast.

We finished the meal off with a double espresso (for Mike) and a Feline Friction (Stoli Vanil, Licor 43, Tia Maria, White Godiva, espresso. Served Up. $10) for me.

We thought for sure we had hit the $100 mark, but we managed to eke by for less than $85, before tip.

All in all, I'd say Il Gatto doesn't quite have Figlio's versatility, but it is still a very solid option for great food in the Hennepin-Lake neighborhood. It's very crowded--they really packed the tables in there, so don't go expecting a lot of elbow room. And the music and ambiance match the harried, cramped space: loud techno and bussers in t-shirts whizzing by. (They seem to have used their Chino Latino marketing team in designing the t-shirts by the way. Lots of sexually suggestive and edgy plays on words and turns of phrase).

But it's perfect for a great meal before a night on the town in Uptown or Downtown. Check it out!

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