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53. Tino's Cafe & Pizzeria

Classification: Traditional

Location: Excelsior, Minnesota

Since time began, the youth of every generation have invented new ways to display their increasing independence, while navigating the tightrope stretched between parental support and harmless rebellion. For some, it was Elvis and rock 'n' roll; others turned to burning their draft cards and flocking to Haight-Ashbury. On occasion, it can take a sinister turn such as crime, drugs, and other unhealthy/illegal pastimes. My own rebellion was the worst of them all: embracing soccer, and specifically, the Minnesota Kicks.

The team came into existence during a critical juncture for me and my friends.

1. We still had summers free from school (time)

2. We landed our first part-time jobs (disposable income)

3. We were all getting our driver's licenses (independence)

So, for 12-15 nights each summer of my youth, we'd head to the familiarity of Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington and cheer on the lads without the burden of parental chaperones, and flex our emerging economic muscles by supporting tailgate parties with 30,000 other young knuckleheads. We loved all the players, mostly British blokes, but we also took a shine to Tino Lettieri, the Candian-Italian goalkeeper, who kept a stuffed parrot named Ozzie in the net and was clearly one of the team's emotional leaders. Eventually, the team ran out of money and folded, but Tino headed to the Vancouver Whitecaps to continue his career, eventually playing for Canada in the 1986 World Cup.

But his greatest move was yet to come. That would happen upon his return to Minnesota after his playing days ended, when he opened a small pizzeria in the early 2000s. I've dined there numerous times and always enjoyed good food and atmosphere. I guess Tino comes around pretty frequently, but I've never seen him, which is definitely for the best. Heck, I froze up when encountering the Papa Murphy's manager around town, so I'd probably burst into flames if I met Tino Lettieri. (7 of 10 stars)

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