A new Italian restaurant on Brainerd's south side is hoping for a rebirth.
Renata's Restaurant and Lounge opened recently in the Red Roof Inn on South Sixth Street. The restaurant's Italian name was taken from a translation meaning "to be reborn."
Jon Pulsifer, executive chef/owner, knows he is fighting an economy where people are rethinking spending habits, including dining out, along with a history of restaurants that have come and gone in this location.
In the most recent past, the restaurant space was occupied by the Buffalo Creek restaurant, which followed after the former Green Mill.
But Pulsifer hopes the full Italian menu he is offering will serve as a draw. He said customers looking for that specialization here previously had to drive to Maucieri's in Crosslake or Olive Garden in St. Cloud. As for the economy, Pulsifer said he is focusing on affordable prices.
White tablecloths were added to Renata's restaurant tables. The restaurant has table and booth seating in the dining room and in the lounge.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
A butternut squash ravioli on the lunch menu is $7. Lunch sandwiches range from a $5 hamburger to a $9 Italian club with pizzas running between $11 and $14. Pizza choices include quattro formaggi with sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and goat cheeses. Other pizzas offer sliced sirloin and roasted red and green peppers, or chicken in tangy barbecue sauce, or grilled asparagus and portabella mushrooms.
Pasta dishes include a spinach lasagna, cappellini primavera, basil pesto linguine and penne vodka. Full size and half size portions are available. The menu includes soups, salads, appetizers, along with a variety of steak, chicken, fish dishes, and a grilled pork chop.
Pulsifer previously worked at The Wharf in Crosslake, Manhattan Beach Lodge and Iven's on the Bay. He worked at r.Norman's in Minneapolis and was trained at Bellanotte. One of his personal signature items is a lobster bisque soup.
Renata's Restaurant and Lounge opened recently in the Red Roof Inn on South Sixth Street in Brainerd. The restaurant offers a full lunch and dinner menu and offers lunchtime deliveries to neighboring businesses.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
Getting the restaurant open was an uphill battle, Pulsifer said. He worked to get the wood-fire pizza oven going, which apparently hadn't been used since Green Mill left. Once Buffalo Creek closed, the Red Roof Inn staff ran the restaurant but Pulsifer said employees were hampered by irregular hours and limped along. Renata's is a fresh start with a positive response from customers, he said.
"I think there is a call for Italian food in Brainerd," Pulsifer said.
The restaurant and lounge employ about 25 people. Most are part time. Pulsifer is leasing the restaurant space and working with the part-owner, Shelpin Almin, general manager/owner of the Red Roof Inn. Renata's provides food for the Red Roof Inn's banquet facilities and catered events.
Renata's offers lunch deliveries to neighborhood businesses, has seating for 140 and provides take out. Popular dishes include a lasagna bolognese, four layers of pasta with Italian sausage, ground beef, bolognese sauce and cheeses or Renata's fettuccini with sauted shrimp and portabella mushrooms in a lobster cream sauce.
Soups, dressings, sauces and pizza dough are all made at the restaurant, Pulsifer said.
Sherry and Tim Wright of Baxter stopped in for lunch last week. They have been fans of Pulsifer's cooking abilities for years and followed him from his previous work in the area.
"It's well worth the drive, better than Olive Garden," said Tim Wright, who recommended the sausage and peppers and the lobster bisque. Sherry Wright praised the chicken Parmesan and the lunch menu value.
"It was fantastic," she said. "I think it will really do well here."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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