What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Chef Sasha Krohn of Culaccino Bar & Kitchen in West Bend.
Culaccino Bar & Kitchen
110 Wisconsin St., West Bend
Chef Sasha Krohn began cooking in professional kitchens at the age of 15. He began by working for Tomaso’s in Mequon and moved on to work at a variety of notable restaurants in the Milwaukee area including the Astor Hotel, Mason Street Grill and All Purpose Bar & Kitchen before taking his first sous chef position at the former Ad-Lib Geocafe, a farm-to-table restaurant in Lindenhurst, Illinois.
In recent years, he also worked in the kitchen at Glorioso’s Italian Market, where he assisted with catering and fresh food preparation, before landing his position as executive chef for Culaccino Bar & Italian Kitchen, which opened in October.
"I fell in love with Italian food at a very young age," notes Krohn. "If asked what I wanted to eat, it was always things like spaghetti or chicken parmesan. About three years ago, I decided I really wanted to take the opportunity to experience Italy and the food, so I spent six weeks traveling all over Italy. I spent a lot of time in Northern Italy, in Florence and in the Tuscan hillsides trying wine. The sheer simplicity of the food and the fresh high-quality ingredients really resonated with me, and that’s something I brought here."
"Culaccino is really all about showcasing fresh from-scratch food," he says. "We have a menu that offers people real value in terms of the time and effort we’ve put into the dishes. For instance, our pizza takes inspiration from the Neapolitan style. It features a four-day sourdough which is made here, tossed by hand and cooked in a Woodstone oven. We also make our pastas fresh daily."
When it comes to the experience he’d like every diner to have at Culaccino, Krohn says it’s simple.
"I would love people to come in here with a group of friends," he says. "Ideally they’ll order a number of dishes – pizzas, pastas, salads – and really enjoy them over a bottle of wine. On the food side, I really want people to experience a little bit of everything. But it’s also about the experience; the notion of getting together and really having a great time is really central to what we do."
1. Beef carpaccio
Thinly sliced beef, mustard sauce, arugula, shallot vinaigrette, grilled bread ($11)
"I love carpaccio; it’s definitely among my favorite dishes. It reminds me a bit of when I was young, eating raw ground beef and onions around the holidays. I feel like it stretches people a bit; it’s taking them out of their comfort zones a bit and introduces them to the finer side of Italian food. We sometimes find that people are hesitant to order it; but once they try it, they’re coming back time and time again to order it."
Goat cheese, fontina, parmesan, ricotta, tomato sauce, fresh herbs ($15)
"This is a four cheese ravioli that we make in-house. We use a really nice blend of cheeses for the filling … ricotta, parmesan, a little bit of goat cheese and fontina. It’s a prima dolce ricotta, so it’s really nice and rich and creamy; you also get the tang from the goat and the saltiness from the parmesan ... It’s one of those dishes that’s very simple. It’s cheese, marinara and fresh herbs; but it’s so perfect the way that it is. Part of that is in the quality; we’re using San Marzano tomatoes for our sauce, a bit of garlic, onion and herbs."
3. Veal marsala
Veal scallopini, garlic mashed potatoes, pan-seared mushrooms, marsala wine sauce ($24)
"This is just a home-run hitter in Italian restaurants. People were requesting a veal dish, so we settled on a scaloppini. We’re using Strauss Veal, so the meat has a really nice flavor. The mushrooms are roasted with rosemary, thyme and shallots, so they have a nice earthy, herbal quality. It’s topped with a pan sauce that we make to order and the marsala wine gives it a little bit of bite. With this dish, I was really going for over the top richness for the winter months. It’s a warm your soul kind of a dish."
Culaccino is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (the bar is open until 10 p.m.) and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (the bar is open until 11 p.m.).
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.