Chefs of Edina’s Hot New Restaurants
If ever you were feeling that the restaurant scene in Edina had become lackluster, you can put those sentiments behind you. There’s been so much restaurant buzz around here lately, we can hardly keep up. Among the new faces in the culinary lineup: an Italian-born chef with three-plus decades of cooking experience launches Mozza Mia, a classic pizzeria and mozzarella bar; a well-traveled Minnesota native emerges after working under local restaurant powerhouses to head up his own kitchen at Cocina del Barrio; and a Korean immigrant and former actress with no restaurant experience opens Pizzeria Lola on the Minneapolis/Edina border. We love supporting all of this creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, and we’re sure that you’ll enjoy seeing (and tasting) the results.
Passion, Passion and More Passion
Vittorio Renda exudes passion, warmth and hospitality—those qualities that we think of as being so quintessentially Italian. Growing up in the Calabria region of Italy with a father that loved to entertain, he learned about every aspect of food at a very young age. He tended the tomatoes, olives, grapes and lemons in the garden right outside his doorstep. He watched his father make salami. He helped cook up family-style plates for big meals to be enjoyed by all of the neighbors.
Motivated by his love of food, he moved north to Milan to start working in restaurants and pastry shops, then worked his way through the many regions of Italy. He never expected to spend the bulk of his career working in Minnesota, but during a visit to the United States in the early 80s, he had a meal at Pronto (a former restaurant in the Hyatt Hotel in downtown Minneapolis) and met Phil Roberts, founder and chairman of the board for Parasole. Something struck a chord between them and before long, Roberts convinced him to come and run the place. From there, they developed other Italian concepts together, like Figlio and Buca di Beppo.
The passion behind Renda’s work is evident when he describes how he perfected each item on the menu at Mozza Mia. The hand-pulled mozzarella, served with crusty bread and olive oil, is made fresh daily, and is nothing but wet, creamy goodness. In the pizza crust, he uses Caputo (an Italian flour), yeast and sea salt, in pursuit of a sourdough flavor and the chewy texture he desires. For the sauce, it’s nothing but San Marzano tomatoes, delivering the sweet, not-too-acidic flavor he wants. Even the limoncello takes a month to make, with Renda soaking the lemons in grain liquor instead of vodka to extract maximum flavor, then adding just the right amount of simple syrup.
Renda spends most of his time working, especially during a big restaurant opening like this, when he likes to have his hands in every element from the cooking to the service. To recharge, he takes trips back to Italy, to visit family (his father, age 90, who now resides in Milan) and rediscover all of his favorite Italian specialties: Homemade gnocchi, the best plate of Bolognese, gelato. The hectic lifestyle doesn’t seem to faze him, though. “It’s like my father says, ‘There’ll be plenty of time to sleep when you’re dead,’” he says.
3910 W. 50th St; 952.288.2882
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