Italian dining guide
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Oct. 1, 2016 at 11:03 a.m. We continually update the thousands of articles on OnMilwaukee.com, but it's possible some details, specials and offers may have changed. As always, we recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the businesses mentioned in the guide.
For the 10th straight year, October is Dining Month on OnMilwaukee, presented by the restaurants of Potawatomi Hotel & Casino. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, dining guides, delectable features, chef profiles and unique articles on everything food, as well as voting for your "Best of Dining 2016.
Few ethnic cuisines are better represented in Milwaukee than that of the Italians. We've got nearly everything, from traditional Italian-American red sauce joints to upscale eateries and adventurous menus. There has been an upsurge recently in fine Italian dining in Milwaukee and so it's time to present some highlights of Italian dining in Brew City.
Of course, there are far too many restaurants to list them all, so here are some of our favorites (not including places that are considered pizzerias). Add your favorite using the talkback feature at the bottom of the story.
Ann's Italian Restaurant
5969 S. 108th Pl., Hales Corners, (414) 425-5040
From veal cannelloni to pizza, Ann's is a southwest side favorite. Don't miss the homemade ravioli.
Balistreri's Bluemound Inn and Italian Ristorante
812 N. 68th St., (414) 475-1414 (ristorante)
6501 W. Bluemound Rd. (414) 258-9881
A Wauwatosa favorite, Balistreri's Italian Ristorante is best known for its delicious pizza, but also serves a variety of other traditional Italian-American favorites in a lively, intimate setting. The Bluemound Inn location has the same great pizza but focuses more on steaks, fresh fish, and elaborate Italian specialties. It's also more conveniently located for sports fans attending Brewer Games.
Barbiere's Italian Inn
5844 W. Bluemound Rd., (414) 4530-3800
1021 Milwaukee Ave., (414) 764-1234
Sal Barbiere, a brother to the founder of Mama Mia's, established this restaurant in 1963. Start off your meal with their famous garlic bread. In true Italian fashion, they won't let you leave hungry: all dinners come with minestrone soup, antipasto salad, garlic bread and spumoni ice cream.
Buca di Beppo
1233 N. Van Buren St., (414) 224-8672
This chain opened to great reviews from the public a few years back thanks to its kitschy interior (hello, Sophia Loren!) and gargantuan portions. If family-style tables, a loud and lively atmosphere and heaping bowls of OK pasta are your thing, Buca is for you.
Cafe La Scala
631 E. Chicago St., (414) 223-2800
An outward focus – i.e. al fresco dining in the courtyard – has given some new legs to this trattoria located adjacent to the bocce courts at the Italian Community Center in the Third Ward. Beginning in November 2016, it will be run by Bartolotta Restaurant Group.
8001 N. Port Washington Rd., Fox Point, (414) 352-9303
842 N. Old World 3rd St., Milwaukee, (414) 273-3236
calderoneclubfoxpoint.com and calderoneclub.net/Home_Page.html
A classic checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurant, Calderone dishes up mounds of delicious pasta like mamma used to make. It also makes some of the city's most beloved thin crust pizza.
Carini's La Conca d'Oro
3468 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 963-9623
Housed in a former Mexican restaurant and tavern, the Carini brothers serve up the city's best seafood-based Italian cuisine. From shrimp and scallops to swordfish and more, the dishes here will transport you to Palermo and the original Conca d'Oro. The lunch buffet is also a good option. In 2015, Carini's added a wood-fired oven and began serving Neapolitan-style pizza, too.
9104 W. Oklahoma Ave., West Allis, (414) 541-4200
Homemade pasta joins a range of chicken, steak and seafood dishes at this warm family-owned restaurant, which opened in 1982. Diners who order dinner entrees (which come with soup, salad and a side), you get a complimentary antipasto tray with cheeses, olive salad and charcuterie.
808 E. Center St., (414) 455-3751
If you're looking for a warm-your-heart pasta dinner and you aren't under time constraints, Centro Cafe is for you. Grab a spot at the bar or in the cozy seating areas and indulge in the delicious options coming from the chefs working in front of you. Don't miss the specials of the day – you can always come back to try one of the tasty pastas on the regular menu.
808 E. Chambers St., (414) 562-9171
Reopened in 2014 by Dino Dinon's grandsons, Dino's has a new menu of appetizers, sandwiches, salads, Silcilian-style pasta dishes and a Friday night fish fry.
Divino Wine and Dine
2315 N. Murray Ave., (414) 212-2222
The former Palermo Villa is perhaps best known for its delicious pizza, but co-owners Dean Cannestra and Tina Conley also dish up a range of pastas and other Italian specialties in a recently redecorated restaurant that also houses a full-service bar.
Filippo's Italian Restaurant
6915 W. Lincoln Ave., (414) 321-4040
What more can you ask for from an Italian restaurant than heaping portions and great service? Filippo's is known for its pizza but the menu doesn't stop there. Yes, the pizza is amazing (and the crust is said to be close to perfection) but they also offer various poultry entrees and pasta dishes.
10404 N. Port Washington Rd., Mequon (262) 241-5420
This family-owned gem has been a staple of the North Shore for 34 years. Come in for the friendly service and adorable checkered tablecloths. Stay for the amazing food. The Chicken Cacciatore can't be beat.
1033 N. Old World 3rd St., (414) 291-5600
The owners of Tutto have transformed their Italian restaurant into the new Giovanni's, named in honor of the classic Brady Street restaurant that was owned by their dad, Giovanni. In fact, Giovanni is again at the helm, serving up dishes that made him a local culinary legend here 40 years ago.
801 N. Jefferson St., (414) 273-4224
275 Regency Ct., Brookfield, (262) 784-4275
Sure, it started out as a chain restaurant, but now it's locally owned by the same folks who own Water St. Brewery, Turner Hall and a host of other establishments. The salads are unrivaled and the minestrone is satisfying. The bread and accompanying oil and vinegar are addictive and a wood-fired oven makes the pizzas and calzoni scrumptuous.
Maggiano's Little Italy
2500 N. Mayfair Rd. (414) 978-1000
Sure, it's a national chain – but when you come into their Tosa location, you'll feel like family. The portions can't be beat, the atmosphere is intimate, and the service is friendly. They're famous for their Rigatoni "D" served with herb-roasted chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions and creamy Marsala sauce.
1307 E. Brady St., (414) 271-7337
Mimma Megna's Brady Street eatery has long been respected as one of the city's best restaurants – Italian or otherwise. This is thanks to a great wine list and the fact that Mimma's was serving regional Italian specialties and interesting entrees while almost everybody else was still heaping eggplant parmigiana onto plates. And you've got to love their $5 martini happy hour. Sadly, Mimma will retire at the end of 2016 and the future of an Italian restaurant in the space remains questionable.
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