October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."
If there's such a thing as a sure thing in the Milwaukee restaurant scene, for me at least, it's Osteria del Mondo, the wonderful Bianchini restaurant located just off Downtown.
And, once again, this past Saturday night Osteria, 1028 E. Juneau Ave., showed me why it's simply one of Milwaukee's finest.
First, this place means something to me. As I've written before, I've had many memorable meals at Osteria del Mondo. Easter brunch with family, anniversaries, birthdays, even a New Year's Eve. I've dined there with about every person that I'm close with, including many who are no longer with us. So, needless to say, this place matters to me.
Yet, there are several new reasons to love Osteria including a revised menu and amazing prices. Truth be told, I usually order the same thing when I eat here -- the tagliatelle. I love this spinach pasta topped with San Marzano veal ragu. It's darn near perfect. And, a small bowl -- that's incredibly filling -- is only $10.
This last visit, my wife went seasonal and ordered the pumpkin ravioli. They are great. Slightly sweet from the pumpkin, of course, and bits of Italian cookies in the sauce, seven of these with a salad and dessert stuffs you for the new tasting menu price of $27. Yep, $27 for three full courses.
No matter what you're in the mood for, Osteria doesn't disappoint. From Marc Bianchini's famous calamari recipe to roasted duck, there's variety and big flavors all over the menu. And, all items are now available at three tasting menu price levels (depending on number of items): $27, $37 and $47.
On Saturday, Osteria was full and the crowd was a great mix, too. From 25-year-olds in jeans to tables of six 75-plus regulars, it truly felt comfortable, cool, casual, not too upscale, yet extremely professional.
Sure, Osteria's been around since 1994, so some may think portions of the dining area are dated. But, honestly, it works and preserving the restaurant's villa feeling while updating colors and the bar area through the years has worked. This restaurant space is stuff of Milwaukee legend, and Osteria delivers with its food, service and attention to detail.
I must, for a minute, talk about the prices. While Osteria is, without a doubt, fine dining, it's incredibly reasonable for any budget. My wife and I did dinner (she did the $27 tasting menu and I had soup and a small pasta bowl), one drink each, split a dessert and each had coffee.
Our total bill? $65.88. Cut out the alcohol and we would have gotten out of there for just about $50. That's pretty darn good for such fine food. And, honestly, if you just order a salad and a $10 small pasta, it's plenty filling and even easier on the wallet.
Osteria, with its still-committed owners (Marc and Marta Bianchini, who also own Coa, Indulge and Cubanitas) is primed, with its new menu, seasonal specials and historic space, to continue to be one of Milwaukee's finest for years and years to come.
Seriously, if you haven't been to Osteria -- get there soon.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.