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Published December 10, 2012, 11:34 PM

Mezzaluna’s midnight brunch gives night owls something to sink their teeth into

FARGO – After a long Saturday in the chaos of a kitchen, most restaurant staffs just want to clean up, get off of work and escape the cozy confines of their stations. Come 10 p.m. at Mezzaluna, however, the cooks have their eyes and minds on one last meal: midnight brunch.

By: John Lamb, INFORUM

FARGO – After a long Saturday in the chaos of a kitchen, most restaurant staffs just want to clean up, get off of work and escape the cozy confines of their stations.

Come 10 p.m. at Mezzaluna, however, the cooks have their eyes and minds on one last meal: midnight brunch.

More Sunday breakfast than Taco Bell’s fabled “Fourth Meal,” the restaurant introduced the late-night option Dec. 1, serving about 50 people.

“We were happy for the first night out. The bar was full, though not everybody ate,” says Eric Watson, Mezzaluna’s co-owner and chef. “It was right in the ball park of what we were hoping for.”

Partially because the brunch buffet opens two hours before bars close and also the nature of the clientele, the scene the first night was less boisterous than a bar rush at an all-night restaurant, but more lively than a Sunday morning brunch.

“It’s funny because Sunday brunch and midnight brunch attract such an opposite crowd,” says Watson, who oversaw a popular Sunday brunch until summer started.

“There’s nothing like it, so it’s intriguing to have food that good for people that are out that late,” he says of the plan.

He’s not speaking with false modesty. Of those that came and ate that first night, many were kitchen staffs from other restaurants. A true stamp of approval.

“It was awesome to see the HoDo kitchen here and Usher’s House,” Watson says.

“It was awesome to have a chance to all sit down together and eat,” says Ryan Nitschke, a chef at the Hotel Donaldson, who rolled in with his staff after they closed up their kitchen for the night.

“It’s one of the best buffets in town. I don’t know where else you’re going to go at that time of the night to get something that good,” says Nick Weinhandl, Nitschke’s co-chef at the Donaldson.

“I’ve spent at least $12 at Hardees after work,” Weinhandl says with a laugh, referring to the price of the brunch.

They particularly appreciated the crème brulee French toast, a Watson favorite that will be one of the few regulars on an otherwise changing menu.

“We’re playing it week by week,” Watson explains, adding that the lineup will depend on what the cooks are inspired to whip up.

The first Saturday featured a country cobb salad, four cheese garlic mashed potatoes, peppered ham with lingonberry-pecan preserves, meatball stroganoff, an egg bake, cookies and cannola.

Watson says in addition to his French toast, the menu would always feature a meat dish, an egg dish, some sort of potatoes, a salad and dessert.

The big revelation for many diners was a new late-night drink menu, anchored by the Midnight Mimosa, a mix of sparkling red wine and gin, and a splash of fresh lime.

“It’s a late night take on the mimosa,” he explains, adding that it was a hit.

The idea for a midnight brunch came from a Mezzaluna patron, Greg Tehven, who had the kitchen cater his own personal late-night meals with friends.

“He threw us the idea and we ran with it,” Watson says. He’ll run with it as long as people keep coming adding that he expects business to snowball through the holidays.

While the midnight brunch appears to be an early success, Watson doesn’t plan on reviving the Sunday brunch just yet as the staff needed to “focus on the family-oriented aspect of our business.”

Watson runs Mezzaluna with his wife Sara.

So how does the staff like working late instead of going home?

Watson acknowledges there are some mixed emotions, but since the bar would be open anyway, it’s not too much work to stock a buffet until 1 a.m.

“It’s really an additional hour for the kitchen,” he says. “Everyone loves being part of a busy environment.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

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