By Julie Lawrence Special to Published Sep 29, 2005 at 5:40 AM

{image1} Some people find love in Paris. Stacy Stangarone, co-owner of Annona Bistro, found the perfect bread. While backpacking through Europe, Stacy and her husband Joe realized that they wanted their taste buds to be as happy at home in Milwaukee as they were in places like the Czech Republic, Croatia and France.

Inspired by the foods of their travels, the Stangarones opened Annona Bistro, 2643 S. Kinnickinic Ave., in Bay View.

"I've wanted to do this forever," says Stacy. "It's taken me years, but I've finally found what I needed to match the sandwiches we ate in France."

A visit to the quaint restaurant, which debuted at the Bay View Bash Sept. 17, leads sandwich seekers 12 tempting options, all moderately priced between $5 and $7.

The menu is stocked with classics like the hot Italian (smoked ham, hard salami, provolone and giardiniera) and the Italian sausage (with marinara, green peppers and onions), but is also favorably dotted with specialties such as the chicken pesto and the spinach, feta and sun-dried tomato panini.

{image2} In addition to sandwiches are 10 pasta entrees ($7-$11) as well as a selection of 11'' thin-crust specialty pizzas ($7-$8), which Stacy says are reminiscent of the kind she ate in Croatia. Unlike anything you'd find at a Pizza Hut, Annona's pie varieties include the roasted garlic and chevre with fresh rosemary, the Neapolitan, featuring fresh basil, fresh mozzarella and grated Pecorino Romano, and they even liven up the plain pepperoni by adding diced tomatoes to it.

The bistro may utilize recipes from overseas, but Stacy says that many of her products are from Milwaukee, including Anodyne coffee, Breadsmith pizza dough and Rishi teas.

"I like to support other local businesses. I know what it's like to put your whole life into something. You want everyone to love it as much as you do."

{image3} As the newest eatery in a booming neighborhood, Annona -- named for the Roman goddess of harvest and the matron of commerce and marketplace -- has already shown promising signs.

"There has been a really good response from the neighborhood, even later in the evening. Right now we stay open until 8 p.m. during the week, but if people keep coming in later for dinner, I'll stay open."

Although it features a weekend brunch from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Stacy says she'd like to establish the restaurant as more a of a lunch and dinner spot where people can enjoy a nice glass of wine of beer with their meal.

"It's cozy and casual in here," she says of her 2,000 sq. ft. space. "I wanted to incorporate the term 'bistro' into the name because it refers to an unpretentious restaurant, and that's what we are. We want people to relax."

{image4} And apparently, it takes a lot of work to create a relaxed environment. The closing of Pat's Bar & Grill left a dark, cluttered and boarded up space that everyone said would never work as a bistro.

But the Stangarones had a different vision. "With the help of my design-savvy brother-in-law (Scott Genke) we've completely redone the place."

With a clean, bright interior, about 20 new tables and paintings by local artist Dave Watkins decorating the wall, they've created a fresh, inviting space to dine.

"I just wanted to create an environment that I'd like to work in for the rest of my life."

Annona Bistro's Web site is

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”