St. Paul has a long and rich Italian history, dating from the boom years of the late 1800s, when Italian artisans came en masse to the Midwest to lay the bricks, cut the stones, install the stain glass, and generally create the cities we recognize today. Cossetta’s Italian Market traces its origins to that glorious past; it first opened in 1911 and is still going strong—and getting bigger. Half the current Cossetta’s is an old-fashioned Italian market: They make their own breads, cookies, and focaccia (under the leadership of a bona fide Italian baker); they make their own sausage (the cheese-enhanced pork spirals are fantastic); they import most of the rest, including the real Parmigiano Reggiano and Neapolitan-approved tomatoes.
The other half of the current Cossetta’s is a counter-service old-fashioned Italian-American red sauce joint, serving big extra-cheese-covered pizza, sausage pepper subs, fresh cannoli, and the works. Soon Cossetta’s plans to open a sit-down, more formal Italian restaurant, and when it does it will be one of the largest tributes to the Italian-American experience in the Midwest. Speaking of the Italian-American experience, you can typically see that experience onsite, in third-generation owner Dave Cossetta, who can often reminisces with old neighbors and friends who have come back to the neighborhood for Cossetta’s sausage and peppers.
Photo: Eric Hansen