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"Twenty-two courses?"

That was my response, and probably the response of most rational people when they find out how much food they are about to consume at Travail's new Italian tasting menu, Giglio.

Mike Brown, one of three chefs/co-owners of Travail, knows that a menu of that size sounds beyond absurd.

"I'm not going to tell people it's 22 courses," Brown said with a laugh. "It'll freak them out."

No, there aren't 22 heaping plates of pasta. There are four pastas, and they're served in tiny condiment bowls, and on plates no bigger than a teacup saucer. Most courses are no more than a bite, like fresh, warm mozzarella balls that Brown shapes in front of you, and that you slurp off the back of your hand during a standing "cocktail hour" that lasts just 20 minutes.

This is Travail, after all, where interactivity and hyperactivity have been key ingredients for the past 14 years.

"We just love the idea of putting something that has never really been done through our lens," Brown said. "We want you to be able to explore food with us. We're gonna give you just enough to make you happy."

Where: Travail Kitchen & Amusements, 4134 Hubbard Av. N., Robbinsdale, 763-535-1131,

The space: Travail's modern, multilevel Robbinsdale restaurant, which the chefs literally helped build, was years in the making. It opened in March 2020 to almost no fanfare — and an abrupt shutdown of Minnesota restaurants due to the pandemic. Travail has brought the modern space back online in increments, and it's reassuring to see it functioning as it was intended, with all three floors hosting dynamic dinner parties.

An open ground-level space currently hosts the Giglio tasting. Upon your arrival, stations are set up for cocktails and bites, but it felt more like a carnival than a wedding cocktail hour. "Hot cheese ball, get your cheese ball," Brown announced, as he hand-formed fresh mozzarella stuffed with porcini cream. The cue that dinner is about to start involved a giant wheel of cheese, some pasta and a blowtorch, something not every restaurant space could, or should, accommodate.

For dinner, guests are seated in a few different configurations, some more communal than others, but each with their own chef/server putting the finishing touches on dishes and explaining them thoroughly. (I was at a kitchen counter.) Sliding walls move to reveal more seating, and some hidden doorways will figure into the meal later.

The food: A printed menu isn't handed to guests until they are leaving, and in that spirit, I won't go into too much detail on each and every extraordinarily playful bite. There are natural phases of several hors d'oeuvres, appetizers, pastas, entrees and lots of dessert. All draw on flavors and ingredients from Italy, or just from the minds of the chefs. A palate cleanser of granita made from shaved frozen fruit, inspired by something Brown saw on Instagram, "might be my favorite," he said. My favorite? Any of the pastas that came at me fast and furious from the kitchen, and which I'd gladly order a big bowl of, if that were an option. (Sadly, it's not.)

The drinks: Wine and cocktail pairings kick off during the cocktail hour with bubbles or an aperitivo. The rest are served throughout dinner. Both pairings cost $65, and a spirit-free beverage pairing is $55. But guests have the option of skipping the pairing altogether and ordering a la carte.

How to get tickets: Travail has multiple events going on at the same time on different floors of its headquarters. The 2024 Signature Chef's Tasting Menu (aka Giglio) runs through June, but tickets are currently on sale through the end of April. Dinners are Wed.-Thu. at 6 p.m., with two seatings on Fri.-Sat. at 6 and 8:15 p.m.

Tickets for the meal are $135 to $155, drink pairings start at $55, and taxes and a 21% health and wellness surcharge get added onto your order before checkout on Tock. Dinner for two with wine pairings on a Saturday comes to $586.03.

Also at Travail: Another ingredient that makes Travail Travail: reinvention. Giglio, the Italian-themed dinner, launched earlier this month and will run until summer. After that, look for a new menu that pulls from Brown's Mexican heritage and co-owner Bob Gerken's Filipino heritage. For the fall, they're going to be looking back at the rise of fine dining in Minneapolis, with culinary tributes to top local chefs.

Giglio is currently served on the ground floor. In the basement bar, a new theme emerges monthly. Right now, it's the return of Umami, a menu Travail has been riffing on for years. Next up, in April, is Buddies Bar, with food and cocktails inspired by "Friends" episodes. And there's more happening on the top floor "sky lounge," too.

But I was there for 22 rapid-fire courses of Italian food, lots of wine, a game of trivia, and all the rest of Travail's signature hijinks. And no, I didn't explode by the end.