This sunny Italian cafe is welcoming and cozy, but guests who’ve been here before know to walk through the dining room right past the desserts and out the back door. Here, you’ll find a three-season porch and small balcony with big views of Lake Superior. Time your visit just right, and you’ll get to watch the setting sun turn the aerial lift bridge blushing shades of pink. The scenery makes Va Bene worthy of special-occasion dining, but the atmosphere is warm and casual for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Servers are ready with recommendations and to help diners wade through the Italian words on the menu. The staff bustles around delivering armloads of salads, pizzas and pastas draped in housemade sauces ($10.50 to $14.25). Serving sizes are generous enough to share; you’ll see artisanal bread sandwiches about to tip over and adults sneaking their forks into kids’ meals of fettucini and meatballs. You also can get those meatballs on a sandwich ($10.25) or try the porchetta panini ($10), a seasoned roast pork dish commonly seen on Minnesota’s Iron Range where Italian roots run deep. The salads are especially enticing on warm summer evenings and include Caprese, Caesar, Niçoise and the Va Bene, a blend of mixed greens, gorgonzola, candied walnuts and pears ($11). All meals start with warm, chewy foccacia served with olive oil and vinegar for dipping.
For dessert, do not miss the Italian cream cake if it’s available, or just linger with an espresso and biscotti. If you don’t have time for a full meal, get a gelato to go—we love the lavender honey.