3 dishes: Sala's Anthony Balistreri
What's in a restaurant? In this series, we ask chefs around the city to describe their restaurants in their own words and recommend three dishes that embody the best of what they offer. In this edition, we talk with Chef Anthony Balistreri of Sala Italian Restaurant, which celebrates 15 years in business this year.
"Sala has really become a staple in the neighborhood," says Chef Anthony Balistreri. "After 15 years, it feels like we've been here forever. We really wanted to bring our dining room to the public and offer people a chance to experience what and how we eat as a family."
"The restaurant has morphed and changed and stayed the same for 15 years, and we're still bringing in our family traditions and sharing them with neighbors and friends. Along with traditional dishes, we offer a lot of specials, usually at least three every night, and if they go off really well, we put them on the menu. It gives me a chance to experiment and really hone it in."
"Sala is also a family venture. Over the years, a lot of different family members – and friends as well – have worked here with us. Everything down to the art on the walls is about family; we have pieces up from at least four family members. And working with Teresa [Balistreri's sister and co-owner] over the years has been really great. It's a great place to work."
Eggplant, ricotta, tomato sauce, mozzarella $11
"This is a pretty traditional Sicilian dish. It has been with us since the beginning, and people have always loved it. It's definitely stood the test of time. We use housemade bread crumbs and our house sugo, which is our great grandmother's recipe. She had a very special technique that helps to incorporate the oils from the parmesan into the sauce. So, that really distinguishes it."
2. Chicken Saltimbocca
Chicken, prosciutto, gorgonzola, sage buerre blanc, bed of angel hair $20
"The chicken saltimbocca is another classic and it's just so good. It's savory, but not too heavy. You'll be satisfied without feeling loaded down. It's a good example of the pride we take in our ingredients. For this dish, we use imported prosciutto. But, the gorgonzola is made here in Wisconsin. We also use sage from our garden or the greenhouse behind the restaurant where we grow a lot of leafy greens and herbs to use at the restaurant. We also use Amish free range chicken, which just has a really great flavor."
Domestic lamb, arugula, roasted red pepper and goat cheese risotto, beech mushrooms and pearl onions and housemade veal demiglace $36
"There are a number of really popular dishes on our menu: the meatballs, the gnocchi, the pasta da mare. But, we have fun with the specials. We usually offer a pasta, a meat and a fish dish every night. We'll offer imported ravioli with a sauce that we make in house. We get our fish from Fortune Fish out of Chicago, and we try to pull in some of the best, most fresh fish they have each week. As for meat, we do a lot of dishes with Strauss veal. I like lamb a lot. And each of those dishes really gives me a chance to experiment and try something new. Our customers also really like it. They don't need to get stuck in a rut. There's always something new and different for them to try, even if they come in often. And that's fun."
SALA is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m.
Sala will celebrate its 15th anniversary with a special party on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 1 to 5 p.m.
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