I love brunching. I can’t help it. So many friends, so many breakfast items, so many lunch items, so many desserts... so many mimosas! My anticipation of indulgence goes on full throttle, all out, and full steam ahead as my brain anticipates the gustatory delight that my eyes and nose promise. As soon as I peruse the array of fare, I start making exclamations (almost uncontrollably) such as, “Look at that!” “Oh, they have this!” and “I am so excited!”, but that is okay because others are usually doing the same.
The all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch buffet at Minneci’s Ristorante is served from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. (The regular menu is also available during that time.) Brunch is $16.99 for adults and $7.99 for children. These prices include coffee, tea, and soft drinks. I wasn’t worried about the coffee, tea, or soda; I was much more interested in the pineapple and strawberry mimosas I saw the bartender making as we walked in to be seated. They looked especially colorful and inviting. On the way to the table, I spied the layout of the buffet.
The buffet had a nice assortment of items neatly arranged on the table. There were hot and cold breakfast items, hot and cold lunch items, and dessert. I started with hot breakfast.
I must admit I am skeptical breakfast can be done well on a buffet. Many times the eggs are dry, the bacon is undercooked or greasy, and my dreams of a delicious meal are dashed. Happily, that was not the case here. In fact, the bacon just might be the best in town! Additionally, they offer both sausage links and patties. The eggs were light and fluffy. In addition to the traditional scrambled, Minneci’s makes an Italian style that appeared to contain pancetta and green peppers.
What’s breakfast without biscuits and gravy? The gravy was delicious (I like to put it on my fried potatoes) and the staff consistently refreshed items throughout my meal. I always felt there was plenty of every item I wanted to try, and it was all piping hot. Breakfast wouldn’t be breakfast without fried potatoes, (which were hot AND cooked all the way through), waffles, and French toast. Butter (which was easily spread), maple, blueberry and strawberry syrup were placed conveniently. These are made in house!
My hot breakfast is pictured below. There aren’t enough superlatives for this bacon. It simply must be experienced. The gravy on my perfectly cooked potatoes was also spectacular--creamy without being heavy or overly salty. The Italian eggs were delicious, as was the homemade strawberry syrup on my French toast. Yum!
For those of you looking for a lighter breakfast, cold items like smoked salmon and fruit were available. Mini bagels, cream cheese, capers, red onions, tomatoes, and lemons accompanied the smoked salmon. The fruit was a mix of pineapple, strawberries, and melons. Fruit is not a surprising item to have at brunch, but to have fruit that tastes fresh and ripe at this time of year is impressive. The cantaloupe was perfect. Given that my last five attempts to purchase a good cantaloupe at the supermarket have failed, I was pleasantly surprised.
One lunch option is the soup, salad, and sandwich. That’s right. Brunch at Minneci’s includes soup! It’s not on the main buffet; it is set up near the hostess station. The day I visited they were serving Manhattan clam chowder and minestrone.
The sandwiches on the buffet were ham and cheese or turkey and cheese hoagies. Lettuce, tomato, red onion, sliced pickles, mayo, and mustard are available for you to personalize your sandwich.
I am a big fan of salads, so I had to try all of them. My eye was instantly drawn to the Caesar salad. Decorated with large croutons, it was sitting prominently in the middle of the table like a centerpiece. Though I liked the amount of dressing used, additional dressing was beside the serving bowl.
Below is my soup and salad plate. Look at that clam chowder! I am not a clam chowder aficionado, but I liked this recipe so much I had another cup.
Hot lunch items were also available. Given Minneci’s is an Italian place, of course there was a pasta on the table. This time it was portobello lasagne. I also had the chicken pot pie. Both were nice and moist. The lasagne was packed with the mushrooms, as well as cheese, and red peppers. The pot pie had a light, flaky crust that covered peas, celery, carrots, and large chunks of white meat seasoned with sage.
By now, of course, I should have stopped eating, but I hadn’t had dessert! How can anyone resist adorable little cinnamon rolls or the chunky apple cinnamon crumble with caramel drizzle? Or how about mini cannoli with chocolate sauce, and the lemon bars with cheesecake topped with blueberries and raspberry sauce? I couldn’t. I enjoyed the lemon bars the most because the lemon tasted so fresh. The flavor had a nice acidity that balanced the sweetness. The apples in the apple crumble were tasty and firm, and the cinnamon rolls were so darn cute I couldn’t resist them.
I hope that you are hungry now and thinking about having brunch this weekend. If so, Minneci’s is a great place to escape a maddening crowd. All the booths are roomy and there are enough tables and chairs to accommodate large parties easily. The servers and bartenders are friendly and attentive. Most importantly, you can have a conversation without feeling like you are being rushed out the door. It was a relaxing and comfortable way to spend a Sunday.
Minneci's is located at 2501 Village Green Place, Champaign, and open for Sunday brunch from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
All photos by Rebecca Johnson.