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In Dining

Ann's Italian Restaurant fare lacks signature flair


Ann's Italian Restaurant, 5969 S. 108 St., Hales Corners, is a converted house that serves up classic Italian fare and pizzas, and has been since 1969. The atmosphere here is ultimately romantic and homey, with touches that make you feel as though you are having dinner in someone's cozy little home.

Two visits to Ann's left us very disappointed in the Hales Corners staple, which was busy with locals on both the weeknights we visited. Our appetizers were excellent, but terrible service and weak salads and entrees left us leaving dissatisfied on both occasions.

Appetizers at Ann's combine breaded basics with some unique takes on calamari and antipasto platters. Calamari ($7.99) arrived lightly sautéed in a lovely tomato and garlic olive oil medley served with toasted and seasoned parmesan pizza crust points. Antipasto platter ($9.99) paired an impressive compilation of fresh Italian cheeses with olives and delightful Italian meats (prosciutto, dry-cured salami, sopressata) and was served with more of the seasoned pizza crusts for great presentation and flavors.

We sampled one of Ann's pizzas on our first visit and while the crust was light and flaky and toppings generous on the medium special (14-inch cheese, sausage, mushrooms, onions, $17.50), the pizza did not compare to those at some of Milwaukee's better Italian eateries. Pizza sausage can make or break a pizza, and in really good pizzerias, even if they do not grind their own sausage, chefs will often season the purchased sausage themselves with fennel and other Italian spices. At Ann's the sausage lacked that extra flavor and the sauce, character, so while the mushrooms and onions were fresh, the pizza was only at an average mark.

Dinners at Ann's come with your choice of regular or garlic bread and a house salad with choice of dressings. The garlic bread was crusty but dry and had little garlic flavor, and salads were average beds of mixed greens. Meat Ravioli ($13.99) was also pedestrian, and while the filling had been made with a combination of pork and ground beef, the flavors were lost in the pasta, and the sauce did little to complement the dish. Veal Parmigiana ($18.99) came with a side of mostaccioli noodles in marinara sauce, and while it was beautifully presented, one of the veal cutlets was absolutely inedible and so tough I could barely get my steak knife through it. The other cutlet was decidedly better, but still had tough sections, which turned me off to the rest of the dish.

In addition, service at our first visit to Ann's was just ever slightly below average, with poor timing and empty water glasses, but a second visit was absolutely the worst service I have received in a restaurant in several years. We had to ask multiple people in order to get simple refills on water and drinks, the waits were excruciating between courses, and our server left us sitting with dirty plates for more than three quarters of our dining experience.

At the end of our meal, we were left waiting for our plates to be cleared while five staff people walked past and our own server chatted with a table of friends behind us. It wasn't until we put on our coats to leave and laid a credit card on the table that she came over five minutes later to remove our plates and take our payment for dinner.

Looking around, we realized we were not the only diners to be treated so poorly; I overheard a woman at a nearby table complaining to her husband about their server forgetting his drink. "They're busy," he replied, but looking around at the four empty tables in our dining room and the servers and the host mingling with each other in the entryway, being busy was no excuse for hungry, thirsty diners in the dining room.


Talkbacks

danno | March 30, 2007 at 10:28 a.m. (report)

Dennis Ghetto loves Ann's. I scratch my head. Danno

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CMRinMKE | March 29, 2007 at 9:39 a.m. (report)

I am actually SHOCKED by the negative comments and this review. We have gone to Ann's for many years... and we're NOT locals. We drive all the way from the Tosa area at least once a month and sometimes more, because we like the pizza there best and have nearly always had good service. We don't order the meals only because we want pizza more, but I've heard nothing but good comments from other diners around us when their food comes. I guess the many times we have been there, we were just lucky? Or is it that perhaps a bad-attitude begets a bad attitude in return? I prefer them over most of the loud, smoky, snobby restaurants downtown or especially on the East side. Yes, occasionally the wait staff sits chatting in the front lobby, and when the owner/manager is not there it is a bit more so...but even then, I've never seen them treat anyone like I'm reading here. So... as much as I like a restaurant when it's not busy so it's quieter for us to enjoy our dinner, I would recommend Ann's to anyone -- and take people I know and like there (and I have), so I guess it's each-to-their-own when it comes to critiques.

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Paralegalit | March 29, 2007 at 9:22 a.m. (report)

I am a Pizza fanatic. I have been to just about every place that people claim is the best pizza. I finally went to Ann's about a month ago. It was a Wednesday night, not too busy. Service was pretty okay, no problems getting in, nice at the door. Waitress was nice, and pretty attentive (At one point I needed a refill and didn't see her around for over 5 minutes). Had Brucetta appitizer. Spread for the bread was good, bread was terrible- Rock hard and no taste. Now the Pizza. Plenty of topping, tangy, but a bit too sweet sause, bizzare crust - cardboard like at first, then flaky at the end. It was a much better pizza warmed the next day. However, I would NOT put it in the top 10 in Milwaukee, nor would I go out of my way to get Pizza from there. Final-quiant place, not really worth a trip.

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laurafern11 | March 27, 2007 at 2:10 p.m. (report)

Last spring, my brother and I planned to take our mom to Ann's for Mother's Day. We called early on Sunday to ask if there were any available reservations and were rather rudely told we needed to call back at 4:00 pm, and at that time they would take reservations. This seemed rather strange, but we waited until 4:00 pm, and when I called, they person who answered the phone almost laughed at me when I asked if there were any openings. He said something like, "It's Mother's Day, we were booked weeks ago!" I then explained that I had called five hours earlier and was told to call at 4:00 pm. He was not understanding, just scoffed and basically said there was nothing he could do. Grr... I bad service is so infuriating!

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GreenCabbage | March 27, 2007 at 12:28 p.m. (report)

I agree with the article. The service is not very good and the food/pizza is average at best. The atmosphere and decor are very pleasant but I really don't know if it is a pizza parlor or Italian restaurant. Problem, there are not many choice in that area of greater Milwaukee.

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