At Dante's, farm to table is the only way

A few weeks ago, I went to a new, impossible-to-get-into restaurant in Minneapolis. It was proudly farm-to-table and all from scratch.

“We even have a butcher right here on the premises!” our server added brightly.

“Old news,” I thought to myself while I sipped my $15 cocktail. “It's already been done.”

Terms like 'farm-to-table,' 'sustainably raised' and 'locally sourced' sound new and on trend, but for Dante’s Restaurants and Nightlife, it's just the way things have always been. It wasn't to be hip – founder Andy Zangrilli was looking for a certain flavor for his pizza crust and sauce, and when he couldn't find it, he just made it himself. As his restaurants grew to include several Hi-Way Pizza Pub locations, along with Z Bar & The Deli Restaurant, Mario's, Liberty Craft House and more, the list of made-from-scratch dishes grew.

“It's not just locally sourced,” Director JP Mills says, “We are the local source. I like to joke that the only thing on your plate that we didn't make from scratch is the ketchup and mustard.”

Their day starts at 11 p.m. when orders are placed for the foods for the next day. Dante’s corporate bakers and pastry chefs who work in their bakery and commissary create countless breads, dough, and desserts, sauces and salad dressings from scratch. Each restaurant has a unique brand and strength, and contributes its signature goods. For instance, you can find Mario’s Hi-Way’s Vodka Sauce at The Deli. Wings are smoked at bar bleu downtown, and sauces and salad dressings are made from scratch at another. It's all fresh from scratch, all straight from Andy Zangrilli's recipes, and all made-to-order to ensure that every dish is as fresh and great as it can be. The foods are distributed to each restaurant – their signature dishes, sauces and specials – and another day begins.

They employed an in-house butcher in the '70s at their gourmet grocery store, Cornucopia (which is now their Hi-Way Pizza Pub “north” location), and nowadays work alongside local growers like Hogs Galore in Philipsburg and Happy Valley Meats Wells Meat in Philadelphia to get the best local meat at the best taste. The croissant-like crust of their signature (transcendent) Hi-Way vodka flaky pizza is handmade hand-tossed from imported Italian flour, topped with their secret, homemade house-made sauce adapted from a recipe that Andy discovered on a trip to Italy. Ask about their cheese, and you will be regaled with a lesson on the ratio of whole-milk mozzarella to provolone to create the perfect sharpness and melt. It's an art and a love affair, and when they purchase ingredients, it's never about getting the lowest price. It's about giving you that perfect bite.

We're in the middle of football season, which means that you are probably already planning a visit into town on one of these perfect fall Saturdays. Give in to the craving for one of Hi-Way's famous stuffed red pizzas, or the reuben at The Deli Restaurant, or the seasonal, delicious pumpkin ravioli at Hi-Way that pairs perfectly with Dogfish Head Punkin Ale on draft.

Because, not only is it one of your favorite Happy Valley indulgences, it's all always fresh, all from scratch, cuz Andy says so!

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