By Alissa Lawton Special to Published Dec 13, 2010 at 3:11 PM

Last Friday I finally did it. I went to Nessun Dorma, 2878 N. Weil St., and had dinner rather than just having drinks and jealously salivating over the neighboring table's menu choices.

There was a wait when we got there, but we took up residence next to the hostess station and before we could finish our first drinks we were at our table. For those that don't know, it's a fairly small place. Like so many hidden gems in Milwaukee, it's an old corner bar, smaller than the size of a flat in Riverwest duplex. It's a cozy joint, so waiting isn't too bad. By the way, they do not take reservations.

I've recently taken to asking servers or bartenders who look like they know what they're talking about for wine suggestions. I'm no wine snob. I know what I like when I taste it and the price on the bottle rarely, if ever, dictates my approval rating. The bartender gave me a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand of all places. It was perfect. Just what I needed to forget about the hours I'd spent commuting that week.

My friend sat down and immediately announced, "We have to get the artichoke dip. One of your readers suggested it last week, we have to get it!" Enough said. I love artichoke dip and, if you remember, it was freezing last Friday. Warm, cheesy carbs were exactly what I needed. (Thanks to the reader that made the suggestion!)

The apps were really great (we also ordered the pesto) and had we ordered just one more to share I wouldn't have even considered ordering an entrée. The artichoke dip was awesomely creamy and had just the right amount of kick. The pesto was supremely flavorful without making me feel like I immediately needed to stick four pieces of Doublemint in my mouth to rid the basil and garlic.

I ordered the seasonal vegetable salad with Portobello mushrooms and couldn't even finish it. My friend ordered the same with grilled chicken and her husband ordered the steak pizzaiola sandwich. All three of us were stuffed. What were we thinking?

Our waitress was extremely nice and attentive. Not in the "This oughta get me a big tip" way, but in a very genuine,"Want to make sure you had a great time" way. I feel like I haven't had many experiences like that lately.

In fact, more and more, I feel like I've run into wait staff that seem to think serving customers is a huge waste of their time. I'm the girl who always gives service industry workers the benefit of the doubt -- I was a hostess in college -- but there are times when you have to ask, "If you hate this place, or the food or me that much can you leave and can someone else take the 20 percent-plus tip I would've left had you not been a prick?"

But I digress. The woman that waited on us last Friday was awesome.

After collecting our thoughts, we headed out the door in an artichoke-haze, off to meet another friend on Brady Street. Our pal had relayed via text simply, "Hosed On Brady." I have been to my fair share of bars in the Brady Street area but I'd honestly never even heard of Hosed On Brady, so I had assumed that he was stating the nature of his current condition, not an actual establishment. I was half-wrong.

Hosed On Brady is not actually on Brady. Located at 1689 N. Franklin Pl., Hosed is a lot like Nessun Dorma in terms of size. However, it reminds me of some of the little corner bars you find further north in the state. I was almost expecting to see a bunch of guys in their blaze orange.

Our friend had linked up with a group of people just back from picking out their Christmas tree. The tree and the group were inside enjoying the warmth and some drinks. Nights like this make me want Bailey's and coffee far more than an ice cold beer or cocktail. But it didn't look like Hosed had any coffee brewing so I opted for my usual vodka and seltzer.

The natives were getting restless so we headed out the door, with the tree, some of us singing holiday carols all the way down Brady. That's the magic of the season. The fact that these guys had been drinking for four hours didn't hurt either. Luckily it hadn't started snowing yet, so my heels didn't end up being a winter in Wisconsin faux pas. Can't say the same will ring true for this weekend knowing the current forecast.

Alissa Lawton Special to

Alissa grew up on the near west side of Madison and had childhood dreams of being a veterinarian. Instead she moved to Milwaukee to attend college and attained a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from UW-Milwaukee. Previously an advertising copywriter and a marketing specialist, Alissa always preferred the writing aspect of her career.

An animal lover, a shoe lover and a white wine lover, she now resides on the much beloved East Side of Milwaukee in what she describes as an ancient apartment building full of character, but lacking sufficient electrical outlets and the convenience of an elevator.

To some she comes across as a shy wall flower, to those that know her much better she is a social butterfly, usually overdressed and wearing inappropriately uncomfortable shoes for nearly every occasion. Either way you choose to see her, Alissa has a strong desire to bring awareness to the social issues in our city while maintaining a sense of humor about herself and surroundings.