In 2008, Rinata opened at 2541 Hennepin Avenue, taking over the space from another popular Italian restaurant, Giorgio. “Rinata in Italian means reborn, so when Giorgio closed, we thought Rinata made sense as we were opening another Italian restaurant opening in the same spot,” shared Amor Hantous, who owns the restaurant along with Scott Butters.
The fresh, handmade fare on Rinata’s menu includes salads, pizzas, pastas, entrees, desserts and, of course, their signature, freshly-made focaccia bread. Wine and beer are also available to-go.
When asked about creating the menu, which changes seasonally, Scott admits, “We are borderline obsessed with food and so we're always cooking for ourselves or getting together after work and doing barbecues or making pizzas.” When experimenting with new menu ideas, their inspiration spans the regions of Italy. Scott also revealed that Amor has thousands of cookbooks at his house to spark their creativity.
Rinata’s Spaghetti and Meatballs is a mouthwatering rendition of the classic dish, and their Bucatini All'amatriciana featuring house pancetta, tomato, garlic, chili flake, and Parmigiano Reggiano elevates a simple tomato sauce with a rich spiciness. When prompted, Scott admitted to the Bucatini being his current favorite.
Just in time for spring, a new addition to Rinata’s menu is their Local Spring Lamb Maltagliati featuring porcini mushrooms, fava beans, asparagus, peas, and locally raised lamb from Red Rock Ridge in Comfrey, Minnesota. Rinata sources local ingredients whenever possible. “Once the farmer’s market opens, we’re there a couple of times a week,” said Amor.
While the quality of Rinata’s food is upscale in flavor composition, the atmosphere is relaxed and inviting. It’s a neighborhood restaurant where you can celebrate a special occasion or stop in to grab a salad and a pizza. The casual intimacy of this small scale restaurant is enhanced by the distinct dining environments. The main dining room is perfect for dates, family dinner or a night out with friends. The cozy bar area with high top tables and bar stools gives solo diners and couples a place to dine and unwind. The small room off the host stand offers a semi-private dining with advance notice. And in the summer, al fresco dining is available on the sidewalk out front.
For many in Lowry Hill East, Rinata feels like a second home. That’s the environment Amor and Scott desired and intentionally created. “We truly love our customers and honestly cannot wait to open again,” shared Scott. “This has been a really challenging environment for restaurants, obviously, but also for human beings in general. I can't tell you how many friendships have been made just from people sitting next to each other randomly at our bar. I think it’s really important to get back to serving our customers as soon as we safely can.”
Due to the size of their restaurant and their concern for staff safety, Rinata is open for online orders/take-out only at this time. Dine-in service is expected to return as case numbers fall and vaccines become more widespread. “Tentatively we're thinking early May,” said Scott. Fingers crossed!
Hours: Tues – Thurs 4 - 8 p.m.; Fri – Sat 4 - 9 p.m.
Address: 2451 Hennepin Avenue
How many people could one children's book help?
By Eric Ortiz
Homeschooling has been a learning experience. Not just for kids, but moms and dads, too. It's called pandemic parenting, and as pandemic parents, we had to get creative at our house.
Homeschool started on Monday, March 16, 2020. That was the first day our three kids missed in-person school because of COVID-19. That also was the first day our kids, led by my wife, started a "Picture of the Day." Each day they didn't go to school because of the pandemic, our kids (ages 12, 8, and 5) drew a picture that we posted on our front door at the end of the day. The pictures featured images of dolphins, giraffes, unicorns, trees, hand sanitizer, and many other things. Some pictures included messages like "happy birthday," "peace," and "vote."
The idea was to spread a little hope and joy in our Lowry Hill East neighborhood during some difficult times. We thought we would do this for a few weeks, maybe a month or two. We ended up doing a "Picture of the Day" for 358 days.
Homeschool ended on Tuesday, March 9, 2021. That was the last day our kids (now ages 6, 9, and almost 13) missed in-person school because of COVID-19. They returned to school in person on March 10, 2021. For anyone counting at home, homeschool lasted almost a year. Our kids drew 358 pandemic pictures — 1,074 pictures total. You can see every one of them on Instagram @burnsortiz. Art taught our family a lot this year. And those pandemic pictures were just the beginning.
Not long after homeschool started, George Floyd died in police custody on Memorial Day at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in Minneapolis. The site of his death turned into a memorial to honor Floyd's life, and a group of community artists painted a mural of Floyd outside of Cup Foods, the market where Floyd was killed.
This mural became an iconic symbol of solidarity for protesters against racism, police brutality and injustice. It was one of hundreds of murals that were painted across the Twin Cities to memorialize Floyd. The murals expressed a range of emotions: fear, anger, grief, disgust, courage, optimism, love. They also had messages that called for justice, equality, change, peace.
All of this hit close to home. George Floyd died a few blocks from our kids' school, Risen Christ, and many murals were painted in Uptown not far from where we live. George Floyd Square is in the backyard of our kids' school, and the tragedy affected everyone in our community.
But a pandemic and historic civil unrest were not in the parent handbook. So we had to figure out a plan. We want our kids to live in a better world than we do now. We don’t want what is occurring today to be their normal tomorrow. We want to help our kids understand what is happening in our city and community with compassion and empathy. How could we teach our kids about the injustice of racism? How could we explain the fear of law enforcement some people have because of the color of their skin or their immigration status?
I had an idea. Tell a story with our family. So together with my 8-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, we wrote, illustrated and published a book. The book is called “How the Zookalex Saved the Village.” The book is about building community and fairness. It is available on Amazon.
Fifty percent of our book sales go to a community mentorship organization in North Minneapolis called Brothers EMpowered. It's for a fundraising campaign I organized as a board member for LHENA. The other half of book sales go to my kids, the "Zookalex" book authors and illustrators. Both are worthy causes.
After the community mentorship fundraiser is complete, we will donate 50 percent of book sales to Risen Christ, our kids' school, which is the only Catholic dual immersion school in Minnesota and provides a bilingual education (Spanish/English) to a diverse community of learners. Another worthy cause.
We want this book to give back to the community. We started a book tour (via video) to speak to students in pre-K to third grade about the book and themes in the book: diversity, bullying, heroes. The goal is to start conversations with youngsters about serious topics and show the power of art and imagination. If you are interested in having us speak to a class, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want this book to inspire others to use their imagination to create art and help kids understand that anyone can create art. That art can be anything you want it to be. And that art can be inspiring.
A few weeks after publishing our book, my daughter and son made their first movie. They shot it, edited it on iMovie, and posted it on YouTube. It is called "The Mystery of the Fire King."
The movie inspired their cousins in California to make their own movies. Creativity really is contagious, and this was a beautiful thing to see. How many more kids could we inspire to be creative and use their imaginations?
The imagination is a powerful tool. We want to keep encouraging kids to use their imagination to reach for the stars. It starts with pictures or a story or a movie. But those pictures and stories could lead to much bigger things like no poverty, no inequality, no injustice. Think that’s crazy? Remember, Catholic priest and former Jesuit John Dear reminds us, "abolitionists who imagined a world without slavery … were dismissed as unpatriotic revolutionaries, unrealistic idealists, and crazy lunatics."
Great advances in human history started with an idea. Imagination is the first step to realize those ideas. It's important to learn the value of imagination at a young age and never lose that spark. But today, as Dear recognizes, our culture of war has made it difficult to see a road to peace. That doesn't mean we should stop dreaming of a better world — a world without war or violence or poverty.
We need to reclaim our imagination. We have to begin to dream again of new possibilities. We need to exercise our imaginations, and envision a new world, no matter how crazy others think we are.
Change starts with the imagination. Imagination is the starting point for progress. For anything to change, we first have to believe change is possible.
Can basic human needs be met for all people? Can basic human rights be applied to everyone? Can we move from a system of injustice to a true system of justice for all? The answer to all of these questions depends on us. We need to keep pushing to see things in a new way, then work together (collaborate) to develop plans (practical plans) that can make these visions a reality.
Our world can be whatever we want it to be. A world without wars and bloodshed. A world without racism. A world with justice and peace.
Eric Ortiz is a LHENA board member and on LHENA’s public safety and racial justice committee.
Fire and Nice Alehouse with Blue Fire Pizza was the Spotlight restaurant of the LHENA Restaurant Fan Club on Sunday, March 21. Neighbors participated via Zoom, with three neighbors dining on site at Fire and Nice.
Judy Schwartau shared with those of us on Zoom a walking tour of Fire and Nice. We met Nate Ropes, owner of the Alehouse and Aaron Hargrav, the Executive Chef and owner of the Blue Fire Pizza Food Truck. We were entertained by a daring throw of pizza dough into a yard-wide crust. The restaurant is decorated with historic relics that Nate has collected over the years. There are 156 campaign mugs from the 1932 FDR Presidential campaign, as well as Civil War and Spanish American War historical items, and Minnesota-made snowshoes.
The menu offers a variety of wood fire pizzas with meat, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free. One fan club member ordered the grilled vegetable side dish and gave them four stars. Watch for menu additions and timely holiday features, such as the recent St. Patrick’s Day pizza that featured corned beef brisket and Guinness cheese. Chef Aaron Hargrav’s favorite pizza is the Kirby Puckett for its balance of ingredients, including fennel sausage and oven-sweetened onions.
Fire and Nice bravely opened during Minnesota winter months and a pandemic. Scheduled to open in November (the first full day of the second Minnesota dial-back of bars and restaurants), Fire and Nice started its takeout service in December 2020, and opened for on-site sipping and dining in January 2021. Choose from a rotating variety of 16 taps of MN beers or ciders.
The building was originally built in 1905 and is now owned by the second generation of the family that purchased it in 1920. The restaurant has welcoming warm woods, including the bar constructed from recycled wood of the original floor and several walls of recycled rough-sawn barn wood from Iowa.
Fire and Nice Alehouse & Blue Fire Pizza
Hours: Mon - Thurs 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Fri & Sat 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Sun 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Take out: Two choices – par baked (to finish at home) or ready to eat.
Address: 2700 Lyndale Avenue South with 23 parking spots in the back
Website: FireAndNiceMn.com -- includes on-line pizza ordering
By Kathy Kullberg
You might be surprised by some Minneapolis Star headlines in May 1936. The stories enticed every child under age 15 and left many dreaming of cowboys and cowgirls for weeks to come.
Rodeo to Open in City June 13.
Texas Rangers Rodeo — Man-Hating Bronchos — Steers — Calves.
General Admission Tickets 40 Cents to Box Seats for $1.10.
June 13 to June 21, Minneapolis Arena.
The famous traveling Texas Rangers Rodeo appeared at the Minneapolis Ice Arena, which was located at Dupont Avenue and 29th Street, the winter home of the Ice Stars and Ice Follies.
"Boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 15 will have their share of fun Saturday when they turn cowboy and cowgirl in the Texas Rangers Rodeo parade. Not only will they get a thrill from being a part of the parade, but every boy and girl entered in the parade contest will receive a prize. The STAR Tribune will award prizes to the best dressed boys and girls in the parade. In addition, each child receives free admission to the opening matinee."
A chance to be an urban cowboy/cowgirl was not an everyday experience in Minneapolis. Children were encouraged to create and don their best Western outfit and appear downtown on June 13. The parade started at the downtown post office and culminated at Parade Stadium. Noteworthy Tribune columnist and radio personality, Cedric Adams, was highlighted as one of the judges for the costume contest.
For the first-time event, a large 30-by-50 foot tent was erected in the stable yards of the riding academy at 2833 Dupont Avenue South, just north of the railroad tracks and the Minneapolis Ice Arena. The arena had been built in 1924 at 2900 Dupont (the present-day site of the Cub Foods building). From 1924 to 1966, the Arena was the home of the Minneapolis Millers ice hockey team (the predecessor of the Minnesota North Stars) and was the birthplace of the Minneapolis Ice Follies, a figure skating extravaganza put on by Eddie and Roy Shipstad and Oscar Johnson. World-famous figure skater Sonja Henie appeared at the Arena in the winter of 1936 to packed performances.
Ice skating shows, ice hockey and public ice skating were held in the Arena from October to April. Then the ice would be removed and public roller skating and weekly dancing would take over the floor. It was reported that a 17-piece orchestra often played, and the music was broadcast over WCCO. A Wurlitzer pipe organ also provided music for skating in both the winter and summer.
In the summer of 1936, for the first time, the ice cold arena turned into a dusty mecca for the annual Minneapolis Horse Show. Horse show jumpers and hunters and flashy fi five-gaited horses all shared the same space for the first time with Western cowboys and wild West bronchos. Not only for children but all city dwellers. It was an event to be remembered for a lifetime. Legendary Cowboy movie star Buck Owens and his horse, Goldie, were a huge attraction. Steer roping, trick riding, rope trickster, Cy Compton, and one of the last of the Texas Rangers, Milt Hinkle, who was a member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, kept the audiences amazed.
The daughters of Minneapolis Millers and Arena manager Lyle Wright were as excited as any two girls could be. Lyle Zealand Wright was the manager for the Millers hockey team while at the arena from 1928 to 1931. Per his obituary in 1963, Wright moved to Chicago for a brief period in the early 1930s to manage the Chicago Black Hawks, but then returned to Minneapolis and focused on the hometown team. After his death, he was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1973.
Wright’s daughter, Nanette, who passed away in March 2020 at age 92, grew up on the ice with her father as the president of the Arena. he skated for the Ice Follies and taught ice skating. Both she and her siblings actively participated in the 1936 Texas Rangers Rodeo parade.
The Minneapolis Ice Arena was sold and torn down in 1966. Four decades of local fun and inexpensive entertainment were lost to the Uptown district with the demise of the Arena. A modern facility with plenty of parking for hockey fans had been built in Bloomington and opened in 1967 for the team now called the Minnesota North Stars. The Met Center was completed in 1967, just to the north of the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium and could seat 15,000.
Almost the entire site at 2900 Dupont from the Buzza building to Hennepin and south of the railroad corridor was razed from 1965 to 1967 to make way for the new Lagoon Avenue bypass, designed to minimize traffic congestion at Lake and Hennepin. Local public ice skating is now relegated to winter days on Lake of the Isles. Rodeos are now found only in the outskirts of the cities. Rodeo parades are only a memory, or found in dreams, of those who were lucky enough to find adventure at the Arena long ago in 1936.
Kathy Kullberg is a longtime Wedge resident and historian.