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 Mark Salamone of Dorsia about the housemade pasta and pizza that makes the restaurant stand out from the crowd.
1307 E. Brady St.
"Dorsia is casual, fun," says Chef Mark Salamone of Dorsia, "And we’re all about fresh pasta. All of our pasta is made in house, from gnochietti and bucatini to pappardelle and campanelli. We probably serve 40-50 pounds of it on any given night."
"As chef, my goal is to send out the freshest, most authentic pasta that guests have ever tasted. Then, it’s up to general manager Jess [Peterson]. She complements what I do by offering wine and suggesting pairings. We try to really give people options, things to try that they’ve maybe never had before."
"From a cooking perspective, I’m all about things that are made right on the pan, then put on the plate. So, that’s generally how we design our specials. We run at least one new dish every weekend and sometimes on weekdays, and it’s really my outlet. It’s fun to get creative and think of new sauces to put out there. Most of the specials are seasonally inspired, but some of the recipes come from my psyche. On a day when I’m in a great mood, I might make something savory. If I’m a little grumpy, I might make something spicy. In the end, all the best food stems from emotions."
"When you think about your favorite foods, they're so often things that were made with this mountain of love by your mother. In a sense, that’s how we operate here. We’re not your mom, but our goal is to deliver some of the most memorable food you’ve ever had to your table."
1. Pasta flight
Can't decide what kind of pasta you want? Pick a flight of three or more.
Pictured: Amatriciana: bucatini, pomodoro, guanciale, parmesan, basil ($8 as part of flight or $15 for full portion); duck carbonara: linguini, duck confit, spring peas, parmesan fonduta, guanciale, pecorino ($11 as part of flight or $20 for full portion); pesto: linguini, seasonal pesto, burrata, pecorino ($8 as part of flight or $15 for full portion)
"It’s hard to go into a pasta restaurant. You see ten different pastas and you have to pick just one to eat. So, the idea behind the flights is that you can get as many as you’d like. It’s one of our most popular items. The flavors and the aesthetics are really two of the things that draw people to it. They’re able to try multiple things at once, and the presentation we use is just beautiful."
Bucatini with mushrooms, bacon, peas in a mascarpone cream sauce ($19 or $10 as part of a pasta flight)
"This is a pasta I’ve been making for my family for at least six years, and it’s fun to be able to bring it into my professional setting. It’s something my brother and I used to make together; and in some ways it’s really about taking a different look at mascarpone. So many people think it’s a dessert cheese, but here we’re using it and it’s really savory. You can get the same texture from cream cheese, but here it’s about the flavor. The peas lend a bit of sweetness and the mushrooms add a nice earthiness. The is smoky and salty and it really makes a great complement to the mascarpone."
3. HawaiItaly pizza
Spicy pomodoro, coppa, pineapple, mozzarella, cream cheese, pickled shishito peppers, Hawaiian black salt ($14)
"This is really our flagship pizza, and it’s one of our best sellers. It combines the sweet and spicy aspects that are often found in Asian food and puts them into a classic Italian preparation. The pineapple brings the sweet and the pickled shishito peppers and pomodoro lend spiciness. The cream cheese is really all about texture; it really pulls everything together when you take a bite."
"One of the factors that makes it so good is our housemade pizza dough, which is proofed and rolled in house. We went through quite a few iterations to find the right weight that would work for a 12-inch pizza with a really thin, crisp crust."
Dorsia is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; a late night menu is available. Dorsia also hosts happy hour Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. with an extended happy hour on Wednesdays (bar only) from 4 to 8 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.