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In Dining

Peter Balistreri hard at work in the Sala da Pranzo kitchen. (PHOTO: Sala da Pranzo)

Sala da Pranzo turns 10


When Sala da Pranzo opened across from the UW-Milwaukee campus in 2001, it was a godsend for a neighborhood that, perhaps surprisingly, had few, if any, dining options beyond fast food.

But Sala da Pranzo wasn't a place that was going to make us settle for whatever we could get. No, brother and sister Tony and Teresa Balistreri had created a warm, welcoming space, greeted customers with smiles and offered good, hearty food at a reasonable price.

Two months later, we wrote the first story about the restaurant.

So, we greeted the news that Sala da Pranzo turned 10 last month with surprise at how time flies and with pleasure that such a good, no-nonsense place has caught the fancy of Milwaukee diners.

We asked Teresa about the past decade over on Hampshire Street.

OnMilwaukee.com: Do you know the exact date of the anniversary?

Teresa Balistreri: Oct. 2, 2001 was our first day.

OnMilwaukee.com: Are you doing anything to continue to celebrate?

TB: We are offering our friends and family discount to all of our patrons Tuesday through Thursday until the end of November. There is a coupon for this on our website. We have also been doing other specials through Facebook and Twitter.

OMC: Did you have any idea at the beginning that 10 years later you'd still be doing this?

TB: Well, we wanted it to last, but we were pretty much living for the day. My brother and I were in our early 20s and at that age is anyone thinking about 10 years later?!

OMC: What has been your biggest challenge over this decade?

TB: Dealing with the economic climate over the last few years.

OMC: And what has been your biggest surprise?

TB: How our patrons are so faithful and encouraging to us. We have found that word of mouth has been our best marketing tool. We are very grateful for all of the support from the community that has developed around the reastaurant.

OMC: How has the menu changed over the years?

TB: It has evolved, for sure, but we still use our own family recipe for marinara sauce. We did not want to serve meatballs when we first opened, and now that's one of our most popular dishes. Tony's unique eggplant appetizer and his tiramisu are still some of our most popular requests and have also been on the menu from the beginning. Our nightly specials keep evolving to reflect current culinary trends and also include more and more locally grown items.

OMC: Do you hope to do another 10 years or are you looking to try something a little different?

TB: We have some exciting changes coming soon, so stay tuned! I also wanted to add that we are starting two new promotions beginning Tuesday Nov. 15. Tuesday will be meatball day, for $5 you get a small house salad and a dish of pasta with one meatball. Wednesday will be mussels day, $5 for a dish of steamed mussels. These will be available every Tuesday and Wednesday.


Talkbacks

Joanliz | Nov. 16, 2011 at 1:28 p.m. (report)

Congratulations Tony & Teresa....well deserved!! Hands down best, authentic Italian in the city! You create excellent food and serve it in a warm, inviting, and unpretentious space.

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bweiher | Nov. 15, 2011 at 9:49 a.m. (report)

Though we live in the Holy Hill area, whenever we want to take friends or family out for a special dinner, we typically choose Sala da Pranzo. We know we will experience a memorable night in the warm and welcoming atmosphere and know our guests will be "wow-ed" by the consistently excellent cuisine and wine selection. We have been going to Sala throughout the 10 years they have been in business and have never been disappointed with our meal and dining experience. The attentive, friendly owners and staff add to the enjoyment as well. This place is a hidden gem and I hope more people will discover it!

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The_Princess | Nov. 14, 2011 at 2:19 p.m. (report)

We were there that first night and even 10 years later, just walking into Sala you are taken to another place just with the aroma of the food cooking. Thanks go out to Theresa, Tony & Staff for always thinking of the customer first.

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alice | Nov. 14, 2011 at 1:36 p.m. (report)

Thank you onmilwaukee for covering a favorite restaurant. So much deserved. Sala stands the test of time for all of us who treasure the real food and excellent service Teresa, Tony and staff. Congrats and many more years. We will keep telling our friends and acquaintances.

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srampolladixon | Nov. 14, 2011 at 6:33 a.m. (report)

When you have fantastic food, great service, and a warm and friendly staff, of course you are going to last 10 years! Congratulations Tony and Teresa! Here's to the next 20!!!

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