When Parasole, who owned Figlio inside of Calhoun Square in Uptown, shuttered the eatery, they assured fans it was only a temporary closing. A billboard sporting an aging drag queen promised there would only be a little face lift. That is, until they started to hint at some "cat" being let out of a bag. After a remodel, the restaurant was reborn as something entirely different. The Figlio fans knew was lost to the ages. Although there were attempts to revive the eatery, the old saying held true, you can't go home again.
When Figlio first opened in 1985, the open air kitchen was revolutionary. Diners could actually watch their pizzas and pastas be made. The back dining room felt more formal; the front dining room allowed for killer people watching as the parade of well-to-do, weirdos and punks that occupied Uptown at the time meandered past; the bar facilitated many a happy hour, jubilant night and made for an ideal meeting of Mr. or Ms. Right Now.
While the menu evolved over the years, there were a few dishes diners could count on. Each meal began with the house-made bread basket and a plate of olive oil. The tortellini were nestled into cream sauce with prosciutto and peas. The crispy calamari were kissed with lemon.
A young Tim McKee (now the James Beard Award winning chef, owner of La Belle Vie and general BFD in the Twin Cities culinary universe) made his bones working in the hectic kitchen. He was one of many talented cooks who turned through that high-pressure, fast-paced kitchen before being unleashed on the Twin Cities restaurant scene.
McKee would return to Figlio in a consulting role with Parasole. The restaurant holding group (who continues to run Muffaletta, Chino Latino, Manny's Steakhouse and more) had opened Figlio as its second restaurant. McKee chose one of his up and coming chefs, Jim Christiansen, to run the kitchen inside the concept that would replace Figlio. Il Gatto did not last long. Christiansen can now be found at Heyday, where he is both chef and co-owner.
The restaurant had undergone a massive remodel. The closed off crowded bar at the ill-fated Ill Gatto meant a lack of window access that robbed eaters the free floor show that is street traffic in that neighborhood. It was... wrong and the public revolted.
Figlio was briefly resurrected in name and menu in the West End by Kaskaid Hospitality (who also own downtown's UNION, the various locations of Crave, among others.) However, the magic was the gone, the era had passed and the company recently shuttered that revival.
For now, the restaurant space remains vacant, even as neon is making a comeback.