I doubt anyone would expect to find one of the most beautiful family owned restaurants in the greater Milwaukee area on a busy strip of West Forest Home Avenue in Hales Corners.
The patio at Mia Famiglia, 10049 W. Forest Home Ave., spans two tiers, and is set within a garden complete with stone path and muraled fence, making it easily one of the most romantic and peaceful dinner getaways I have found in Wisconsin.
Add stellar food, reasonable prices and portioning and great service, and Mia Famiglia easily glides to the top of my favorite restaurants list.
The restaurant opened in 2001 and has received quiet accolades ever since. The focus here is on fresh seafood and ingredients with traditional Italian pasta dishes intermixed. Mia Famiglia offers nightly soup and weekend appetizer, entrée and dessert specials coupled with a respectable wine list; and the location, both inside and out, is quaint and restful.
Diners can expect dishes from Chef Tomas White Jr.’s kitchen to reflect Italian tradition with a contemporary flair, like a special of potato gnocchi with rabbit ragu, Long Island cherries, sage, gorgonzola and toasted pine nuts ($16), roasted eggplant soup ($5) and interspersed seasonal items like wild boar tenderloin and wild mushroom risotto.
Appetizers at Mia Famiglia range from more traditional bruschettas ($7) and eggplant strips ($8) to specialty risottos ($11, varies). I have sampled multiple risottos here and have found them to be some of the best I have had the pleasure of eating anywhere, with perfectly cooked kernels of rice and the lovely tanginess that comes with adding just the right amounts of wine, butter and olive oil in the slow cooking process.
A generous antipasti serving of calamari ($8) carried the fresh sweetness of a mint marinade beneath its featherweight breading and the light tomato sauce accompaniment.
Halibut ($20) and a special of black bass ($26) both showcased White’s skill with fish. Both items were grilled to perfection and flaky atop servings of rich potato purees. In the case of the halibut, the fish was drizzled with a lemon oregano butter and atop a saffron infused potato puree set off with grilled yellow squash, making it the perfect rich yet somehow still light summer dish.
Saltimbocca ($26) was also a delight, with tender Strauss veal scaloppini layered with sage and prosciutto in a lemon wine sauce. Gamberoni ($22) offered six sautéed large black tiger shrimp rife with fresh garlic and topped with a bouquet of steamed green beans packaged in prosciutto and surrounding more of the rich roasted garlic potato puree that appears in many of the pesce and carne (fish and meat) selections here.
Mia Famiglia also offers pizzas and traditional pastas (an asterisk on the menu notes that spaghetti and meatballs are available daily). The pizza crust here is thin and slightly sweet and the toppings range from traditional sausage, mushroom and onion to more inventive options like fig compote and pancetta. We were also pleased to see a bambino (children’s) menu for those with kiddies who still like to sneak out on semi-date nights here and there.
Tiramisu at Mia Famiglia is the classic modern Italian dessert shining as a nearly ideal rendition. But be aware, on weeknights, the patrons are loyal regular customers, and a late visit may leave the house out of desserts since their reputations succeed them.
Typically, you can expect to find cannoli, a specialty cake, and the aforementioned tiramisu to wrap up your evening; but even if dessert doesn’t strike your fancy, a chilled glass of prosecco in Mia Famiglia’s garden patio is a picture perfect way to end a nearly flawless meal.
Amy L. Schubert is a 15-year veteran of the hospitality industry and has worked in every aspect of bar and restaurant operations. A graduate of Marquette University (B.A.-Writing Intensive English, 1997) and UW-Milwaukee (M.A.-Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Writing, 2001), Amy still occasionally moonlights as a guest bartender and she mixes a mean martini.
The restaurant business seems to be in Amy’s blood, and she prides herself in researching and experimenting with culinary combinations and cooking techniques in her own kitchen as well as in friends’ restaurants. Both she and her husband, Scott, are avid cooks and “wine heads,” and love to entertain friends, family and neighbors as frequently as possible.
Amy and Scott live with their boys, Alex and Nick, in Bay View, where they are all very active in the community. Amy finds great pleasure in sharing her knowledge and passions for food and writing in her contributions to OnMilwaukee.com.