D’Amico on Grand is Renovated and Refreshed

The Grand Avenue staple has been renovated without changing what works.

For 20 years D’Amico & Sons on Grand Avenue has been offering tried and true meals that customers love. But, co-founder Larry D’Amico says, that can be a source of both praise and complaint.

“We have dishes people love and if you take something off you hear about it,” he says. “But at the same time, if you never change anything you hear about that, too.”

So, restaurant by restaurant throughout the Twin Cities, they are making changes – without throwing out what works. The Grand Avenue location got its revamp just after the New Year and has been offering new dishes and refreshed décor since. Die-hard D’Amico fans don’t have to worry though, because according to D’Amico, the atmosphere remained the same. New artwork made its way onto the walls, retiling was done, and new cabinetry replaced the old. And this month a refreshed outdoor dining area is expected. The new patio furniture should be open for your fresh-air dining pleasure around April 15.
While the aesthetic changes give a subtle revamped feel, the menu additions truly re-awaken your taste buds. There are five new entrée grill items (with five new sides), new grilled sandwiches for lunch, seven flavors of Izzy’s Izzabella Gelato, and Surly Brewing on tap.

“For the last 20 years I’ve been thinking, ‘I wish we had a grill,” D’Amico says. “I wanted to offer something new.” So new grills were put in with the renovation, and the “something new” made it on the menu.

The new grilled entrées range from $10.95–$15.95 and you can choose from any of the sides, which include grilled asparagus and grown-up mac’ and cheese. D’Amico says. “Among the entrées, the grilled chicken scaloppine is the most popular,” he says, followed by the Norwegian Salmon, which is served with a green goddess sauce.

But at lunch, D’Amico is really excited about the grilled bustas (pronounced “boosta”). A busta – Italian for “envelope” – is an Italian sandwich grilled on piadina bread. “They’re served like flatbread sandwiches and they’re delicious,” he says. They are filled with chicken, steak, shrimp or Italian meats and served hot for $8.95 –$9.95. “The piadina bread imparts a great grill flavor,” D’Amico says.

And for dessert (or an afternoon snack), choose from seven flavors of Izzy’s gelato, which is unique to D’Amico’s. “They make gelato for just us right now,” D’Amico says. “People love it.”

People also love the hometown favorite Surly on tap. Overrated, Hell and Bender are all available, D’Amico says, and selling like hot cakes. “We doubled our beer sales when we brought Surly in on tap.”

And while things may have changed, with items appearing and a few old favorites disappearing, D’Amico says those oldies will still come back as specials. Not to mention your favorite promotions, like $8.99 for a bottomless – as in never-empty – glass of the house wine.

So while things have been refreshed, it’s still everything you love about D’Amico’s. “You need to change things, but you need
to protect things,  too,” he says.

Blucy Spotlight:

If you walk into the Blue Door Pub on Selby Avenue and don’t at least think about ordering a Blucy, you’re doing it wrong. Next time you’re there, consider ordering the Merriam Park Blucy, named after the Saint Paul neighborhood.

“I truly love that burger,” co-owner Jeremy Woerner says. “For me, it’s the jelly on top” that makes the burger. The burger starts with the traditional two patties, and then is stuffed with bacon in the middle, along with blue cheese and garlic. And they don’t stop there, “which would have seemed appropriate,” Woerner says. It’s topped with red currant jelly, offering a sweet and savory combination.

“I don’t know if there’s a list of ‘desert island’ burgers out there, but it would make the list for me,” he says. It’s been on the menu since the restaurant opened in September 2008.

After your first Blucy, you’ll definitely want another, so make sure to get started on the Blucy Challenge. Eat 10 burgers—five are chosen by the restaurant, and five are up to the customer. For each Blucy you get a punch on a card, and on your final visit, punch card in hand, you win a T-shirt that changes once a year, “an original design that you can’t buy. You can only earn it,” Woerner says. Your next Blucy and side is on the house, “and you get bragging rights.”