CHICAGO – Kenosha's Tony Mantuano is a star in Chicago (thanks to Spiaggia) and beyond (thanks to his television appearances). But he's not too busy to keep one eye on Twitter.
When we arrived in Chicago Friday evening, I tweeted that I hoped to get a table at his Bar Toma, 110 E. Pearson St. – named for a type of cheese with deep, deep roots in Piemontese culture – and that I sure hoped the place lived up to its name and served toma.
Lickety-split, Mantuano retweeted me and assured me that toma is on the menu at Toma. By then, we were being seated – no wait, though the place was busy – at a table near the front of the restaurant, which opened late last year in the shadow of the Water Tower.
We had a great wood-fired pizza margarita ($11) with bubbling cheese and whole, giant basil leaves, and a toma tasting platter ($12) with three varieties: fresh, aged and a version made by Caputo in Illinois that was milky and soft, almost like a fresh ricotta (though not as liquid). The platter also had slices of creminelli salami, house-made preserves and sesame crisps.
My daughter and I shared crispy calamari ($9) and we shared a Cristina salad ($9) – orange supremes, olives, frisee, spinach, avocado, smoked garlic, shrimp, hearts of palm and lemon – around the table, too.
Though the food was all really good and the prices very reasonable, the best part was that Bar Toma really felt like an Italian restaurant in that despite the fact that it was a busy Friday night, most of the employees coo-ed at the kids, offered them samples of gelato and wowed them by tossing pizza dough in the air.
That makes this parent's night out that much more enjoyable.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.