By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 12, 2003 at 5:56 AM

{image1} When the Zilli family recently hosted an open house to provide a sneak peek at its new restaurant, Coast, the room may not have been packed to the gills, but there were a lot of satisfied smiles on those in attendance.

As a jazz duo played, the restaurant, which celebrates the cuisine of America's coastal regions, dished up a selection of appetizers -- refreshingly light ones alongside sumptuously satisfying ones -- and drinks in its new location in O'Donnell Park at the foot of Wisconsin Avenue in the shadow of the Milwaukee Art Museum's wings.

Nola's thrived here for a while and the space held a family restaurant before that, but Coast seems to be taking the right approach to long-term success. At the preview event a number of employees of nearby law firms and other offices were on hand. It is this crowd of lunch and dinner wine-and-diners that can provide Coast with a steady flow of customers.

And, if the appetizers are any indication, those diners will be satisfied with a mix of seafood and other treats. Although the main menu items weren't available at the event, the Zillis promise San Francisco Cioppino (it's refreshing to see a local restaurateur that realizes this is a Bay Area, and not a Italian-born, dish); Hawaiian Ahi tuna served with coconut jasmine rice and caramelized pineapple puree; Jerk grouper and other tempting dishes.

{image2} The dining room is classy but in an understated way. A curvaceous bar faces a light-hued dining area, with an elevated lounge area and a view out to the patio and, beyond, the Art Museum and Lake Michigan. The place has the feel of a old-time upscale hotel dining room and bar. But if the vibe is old-style, the food feels up to the minute.

We sampled the bleu cheese tater tots; popover bread pudding; endive leaves with cream cheese, chopped vegetables and figs; crab cakes; lobster salad and more. And we loved each one, although, embarassingly, we could be spied illicitly following the servers that offered the crab cakes and the out-of-this-world popovers.

Coast, 931 E. Wisconsin Ave., opened to the public on Thurs., Aug. 7. Visit Coast online at www.coastrestaurant.com or call (414) 727-5555 for opening hours and reservation information.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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.