Restaurant review

New restaurant review: Momento in Saint-Paul

Pazzaluna’s time had come and gone. There is no doubt that one of the most popular stops for dinner and drinks before an event at the Xcel Energy Center was in need of a refresh. Momento is off to a good start as a substitute. A nice bar is in the center of the room, and cocktails will set you up well for a show at the Ordway or a Wild game (you can’t beat the Gin & Tonic for $9)!

Momento is a kind of counter service/QR code operation. You order via a QR code menu, and a waiter takes it out. I know we got used to it, but I just imagine a room full of people heading to a play bewildered by this place getting their orders right. Fortunately, there are servers that can take care of the situation for you. The room itself looks great – cool blues, open floor plan. It’s user-friendly and accessible, just like the map.

There’s a burger so solid they called it “the old reliable.” Now it’s the “in n’ around burger” with caramelized onions and sharp cheddar, fries included for $14. There’s a more-than-reliable fried chicken sandwich brined in pickle juice and a hot/non-spicy “mo” sauce ($15). My eldest was particularly impressed that the chicken didn’t hang on the bun – one of his pet peeves is the messed up chicken-to-bread ratio which seems to favor giant chicken breasts.

Cauliflower tempura with wasabi peas is a really fun dish for spring, with Calabrian honey and wasabi ponzu dipping sauce. Crunchy, vegetal, energetic, all the perfect notes on a small plate ($14).

Perhaps no surprise that my favorite is the pizza, given the beautiful wood-fired oven that was a feature of the old Pazzaluna. The pizza of the moment ($19) during our visit didn’t skimp on the spice, with Calabrian chiles and a lovely red sauce that made our sausage and arugula pizza stand out. You can choose a basic margherita, pepperoni or sausage from the regular menu.

Momento emphasizes char from the wood oven and our visit which was a work in progress. The Grilled Caesar ($16) could have used more time on the grill. Same thing with the wood-fired shrimp we added to the rich, creamy, and dreamy grown-up macaroni and cheese. For the season, macaroni has been replaced on the menu by a chicken risotto, and it’s also finished on the fire ($19).

360 St. Peter Street, St. Paul, 651-223-7000,