Restaurant Features: Bar, Patio, On Site Parking, Saturday & Sunday Brunch
Location: Woodbury, MN
Address: 772 Bielenberg Drive Woodbury, MN 55125 651.578.3000
Hours: M-F 4pm Sat & Sun 10:30-3pm (brunch)
Links: Aperitif Website Google Map
Atmosphere: Open since January 2010, Aperitif is located in a giant, 10,000+ Sq. Ft. newly-constructed building at the corner of Bielenberg Dr. and Tamarack Rd in Woodbury. I didn’t realize how big the restaurant truly was until I stepped inside the fun and artistically-decorated space. It is both long and wide, with room to seat over 200 guests. A majority of the tables are set within one big space but there are also tables around the perimeter of the room that offer more privacy. There are also a couple of large round tables that have closeable sheer curtains for a more intimate option. The decor is a collection of homemade art including murals and mosaics; even the light fixtures themselves are works-of-art.
The sophisticated yet contemporary black walnut bar runs at least half the length of the restaurant on the wall opposite the entrance. The lighting below the bar illuminates the stools in a very inviting manner. The wall has a series of colorful murals representing a contemporary Mediterranean theme and the ceiling is also very cool, a combination of wood and lights.
Soon to open, the patio area at Aperitif is a beautiful, large, bricked space complete with a two-story fireplace and fairy-lit trees. There are also several pretty flower beds and landscaping around the property. I can’t wait to go back and enjoy a drink by the fire.
Menu: Appetizers include Italian Wedding Soup, Shrimp Bisque, Salmon Cakes, Portuguese-Style Shrimp, Crispy Oysters, Spicy Sauteed Calamari, Tuna Carpaccio, Walleye Fritters, Shish Kebabs, Grilled Chorizo, Mini Sicilian Veal Meatball Sandwiches, Baby Clams and Mussels Mariscada, and the Imported Charcuterie and Cheese Board.
The salads offered at Aperitif are the Fresh Vegetable Chopped Salad, Quattro (assorted meats and cheeses), Bistecca a la Genoa (pesto glazed sirloin and bleu cheese with romaine), Grilled Caesar (with shrimp, roasted salmon or chicken), Tomato Panzanella, Rare Tuna Bistro Salad, and the String Beans & Sweet Onions.
Aperitif also offers Pizzas and Flatbreads. Pizza choices are Margarita, Bologna (sausage and prosciutto) , Caesar, Athens (ground lamb and feta) and the White Pizza (spinach pesto and trugole Italian cheese). Flatbreads include Grecian (artichokes, kalamata olives and roasted garlic), Capri, and Wild Mushroom.
Pasta dishes include Chicjen Piccata, Crispy Shrimp, Vegetable Ribbons, Veal Bolognese, Linguini Vongole and Nonni’s Meatball (with baked ziti)
Aperitif’s Executive Chef Chad Grant has created a variety of entrees with fresh ingredients that you often see in the Mediterranean region. Options include the Double Heritage Pork Chop, Turkey Porterhouse, Hanger Steak, Lamb Ossobuco, Herb Rotosserie Chicken, Flaming Shish Kebab, Panko Crusted Walleye, Cioppino, Swordfish Steak, Fillet Mignon of Tuna, Roast Salmon Verte, Shrimp Provencal, and Paillard of Chicken or Sirloin.
Desserts include Lemon Souffle, Molten Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Gelato.
Aperitif is also open Saturday and Sunday for brunch, with a condensed version of the dinner menu. View Aperitif Brunch Menu.
Price guide: Appetizers $6-15 Salads $7-18 Flatbread/Pizza $11-15 Entrees $20-29 Pasta $10-17
What we ordered: Our meal started with complimentary freshly baked foccacia bread, served hot from the oven. It was soft and light with a golden buttery-brown crust. The bread was served with an mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and freshly grated parmesan for dipping. Every bite of this bread was heavenly, it was literally the best bread this bread-lover has had in quite some time. My new favorite bread!
I love calamari and I also love spice so when I saw the Spicy Sauteed Calamari on the menu, I had to try it. Big winner! The tender calamari was cooked perfectly in a spicy tomato and wine broth along with pine nuts, currants and homemade cous cous. I loved the combination of flavors and textures and it definitely had bite. The currants added an unexpected bite of sweetness that helped offset the spice.
Prior to this visit I had never had oysters served any way other than raw, in-the-shell. Fried oysters are a completely different experience (and for me a much more enjoyable one!). The panko breading gives it a beautiful, crispiness and the oyster itself has substance. This is probably the safest way to try oysters if you want to gently get your feet wet! They came with two different sauces, a spicy vodka-cocktail sauce and a syrupy sweet-and-sour dipping sauce. Both sauces were very good but I preferred the sweet and sour.
We also tried the Shrimp Bisque, which was a zesty blended soup that had the distinct flavors of shrimp, tomato and a hint of brandy. It was topped with a slice of crustini and thin slices of breaded shrimp. The shrimp bisque was wonderful and I enjoyed what I was able to eat but wanted to save room for the main course which was yet to come.
For my entree I ordered the Lamb Ossobuco, which came highly recommended. This tender, rich lamb shank was braised in a savory broth of its own juices, and what I believe to be red wine. Mama Mia! This traditional Italian dish instantly turned me into a fan of lamb like I hadn’t believed possible. It tasted similar to beef but just a little more rich but had a depth of flavor that was not at all gamey like lamb can sometimes be. It was tender and falling off the bone, just the way braised meats should be. It was served with cheese polenta and cooked peppers, zucchini and yellow squash. If you are unfamiliar with polenta, it is a dish made from cornmeal, water and salt. The texture and taste of it is very similar to grits, but it is cooled after it is cooked so it is firm and has a slightly gelatanous feel to it.
My companion ordered the Cioppino, also by recommendation. This seafood medley was a mix of shrimp, lobster, clams, mussels, baby scallops and swordfish cooked in a flavorful but mild tomato and saffron based broth. Every bite of the seafood was tender. The dish was served with a large piece of bread in the middle, soaking up the broth. As much as I enjoyed the dish, I would have preferred my bread on the side.
For dessert we tried the Lemon Souffle, which is a frozen treat similar to ice cream but made through a different process. It was slightly creamy yet light and refreshing, with the distinct taste of natural lemon. I could eat this every day in the summer!
We also tried the Molten Chocolate Cake, which was served with chocolate gelato, roasted marshmallow cream and gram cracker crumbs. Just one forkful into this masterpiece and it is erupting with hot, molten dark chocolate. Although the cake is about the size of a serving, it is so rich that it can still be shared. The gelato, marshmallow and gram cracker crumbs weren’t necessary to make this cake a winner, but were delicious all the same. Especially if you like s’mores!
Service: We had exceptional service at Aperitif throughout our visit.
The parking lot has enough spaces to accommodate the restaurant at full capacity so it wasn’t a problem to find a spot. Reservations are accepted but not always necessary, but I did make a reservation ahead of time. Seating is arranged by the team of hostesses who were all very sweet and professional. Our server took good care of us, and had thorough knowledge of the menu and gave excellent suggestions. The food was paced so that we were able to enjoy each course without rushing to eat it before the next arrived. The General Manager was also on-hand the night of our visit and was available to provide information about the restaurant as well as suggestions from the menu. When you visit Aperitif, you know you will be well taken care of!
Overall Impression: My companion and I both thoroughly enjoyed Aperitif. The atmosphere is comfortable, yet fun and romantic all at once, and the service can’t be beat. Everything we tried from the menu was delicious, I highly recommend the Lamb Ossobuco and the spicy calamari. Aperitif also gets my vote for Best Bread. Another great feature I would like to point out is that Aperitif has a Blog that offers cooking videos and tips! Go check it out….
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