On any given day the curious can stop by 790 Grand Avenue and see chef Rikki Giambruno, chef de cuisine Paul Baker and general manager Beth Johnson diligently working away at pulling together a restaurant. Hyacinth will be grand Avenue’s new neighborhood trattoria in a slim storefront made available by the Golden Fig moving next door and expanding its gourmet grocery space. The restaurant will be Italian with a full bar available. The restaurant could be open as soon as next week, and absolutely operational before the end of July.
The idea for this venture came from nights of slammed service when Giambruno and Baker were working in the hot Brooklyn kitchen of Franny’s. Giambruno would say, “This is just an experience for when we open our place in Minnesota.” Or when it was particularly rough, “Maybe we should go back to Minnesota.”
The duo returned just in time to get pounded by that late April snowstorm. They were going to meet at Bad Weather Brewing, which Giambruno’s brother Joe co-owns. The historic snowfall was an ominous welcome back. Undeterred Giambruno knew it was time to look for the right restaurant space.
It would be small, intimate and reflect the residential neighborhood that it would be located in. The difficulty was finding that right space. When he put out the call he was inundated by commercial real estate offerings, but nothing fit the modest square footage desired. They were just about to scrap their ideas and start fresh when he heard about the Golden Fig moving to a larger space next-door. That would leave a slim storefront in prime neighborhood location. The bustling retail stretch has tons of foot traffic and families in need of a restaurant just like his. Within minutes of seeing the posting, he contacted the real estate agent.
“Everyone thought I was crazy,” Giambruno said. “But I met with our architect and he sketched it out on the back of a napkin and I was like, that’s it. That’s our restaurant!”
The restaurant nearing completion has everything they could need to cook from a fryer, commercial stove, tiny grill and even an Instapot. “Chefs love the Instapot,” Giambruno said.
The three do a little bit of everything. While Giambruno tries to sneak bites of a Punch pizza and give an interview, Johnson is deftly handling furniture assembly while Baker fields offers from sales reps.
The menu will be small and ever evolving. A working version of what they’ll be opening with is on the restaurant’s website. Pasta, entrees, salads and ingredients from local farms like the Hmong farmers collective, Bodine fish farms, and the Gentleman Forager.
Unlike working in NYC, the St. Paul city processes have been smooth sailing thus far, including pulling in a full liquor license. Hyacinth can serve cocktails, like a barrel-aged gin negronis and an aperol spritz. The neighborhood has also been welcoming, with community meetings acting more like meet and greets.
Expect an announcement soon on when the doors will open and the new restaurant on Grand Avenue will begin serving. After that, Hyacinth will be open Tuesdays through Saturdays for dinner.