Italian dining guide
Note: The contents of this guide were checked for accuracy when this article was updated on Oct. 26, 2018 at 9:03 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.
Season's eatings! The weather may be getting colder, but Dining Month on OnMilwaukee is just cooking up, dishing out your winning picks in this year's Best of Dining poll. Dining Month is brought to you by Fein Brothers, your premier food service equipment and supply dealer in Wisconsin since 1929. Congratulations to all of the winners, and happy eating for all those who voted! See all the winners for the month so far here.
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.
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).
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
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 Brewers 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, Barbiere's won't let you leave hungry: all dinners come with minestrone soup, antipasto salad, garlic bread and spumoni ice cream.
1721 W. Canal St., (414) 847-7626
Bella Italiana is Potawatomi Bingo Casino's culinary tour of Italy, right here in the heart of the Menomonee Valley. Standards like spaghetti and chicken parmesan are mixed with seafood options like salmon and seafood cannelloni.
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. Since November 2016, it has been 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.
Capri di Nuovo
8340 W. Beloit Rd., West Allis, (414) 543-5510
This West Allis bar and grill serves a variety of Italian pasta dishes, salads, sandwiches and appetizers in a relaxed setting.
Carini's La Conca d'Oro
3468 N. Oakland Ave., (414) 963-9623
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.
1307 E. Brady St., (414) 539-6826
Enjoy modern Sicilian cuisine in a casual, modern atmosphere at Dorsia. Options include a variety of antipasti, flatbreads, soups, salads and housemade pastas along with entrees like spiedini and braised shortribs.
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 it also offers 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 more than three decades. Come in for the friendly service and adorable checkered tablecloths. Stay for the amazing food. The chicken cacciatore can't be beat.
Maggiano's Little Italy
2500 N. Mayfair Rd. (414) 978-1000
Sure, it's a national chain – but when you come into the Tosa location, you'll feel like family. The portions can't be beat, the atmosphere is intimate, and the service is friendly. It's famous for its Rigatoni "D" served with herb-roasted chicken, mushrooms, caramelized onions and creamy Marsala sauce.
Il Mito Enoteca
6913 W. North Ave., Wauwatosa (414) 443-1414
Chef Michael Feker's East Tosa Italian eatery is very popular in the neighborhood and draws from beyond, too. The atmosphere is inviting and the changing menu always interesting. Feker's personality is also key to the allure of the restaurant and the attached "Chef Feker's School of Culinary Magic."
2778 N. Weil St., (414) 264-8466
Our own Molly Snyder writes: "Riverwest's Nessun Dorma is cozy, inviting, urban and affordable with a medium-sized menu featuring foodie-approved appetizers, soups, sandwiches and nightly specials. Nessun features an extensive selection of wine, beer and liquor." Reservations are not accepted.
221 N. Broadway, (414) 308-1600
Onesto, which means "honest" in Italian, is upfront in its approach, says our Lori Fredrich. There are no promises of authenticity. No bravado when it comes to décor or presentation. Just simple rustic dishes that most will find accessible and familiar. Onesto is open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends until 11 p.m.
The Pasta Tree
1503 N. Farwell Ave., (414) 276-8867
One of the few places in town that doesn't have its fingers crossed when it says it makes its own pasta, the handmade quality shows at this east side place. Choose your pasta and your sauce and expect to gorge yourself! Although it's been growing into a neighboring storefront and to tables out front and in the backyard, The Pasta Tree still feels like the definition of "intimate."
7616 W. State St., Wauwatosa, (414) 771-7910
Bartolotta's, in the heart of lovely downtown Wauwatosa, is, hands-down, one of the best Italian restaurants in town, clearly a step above the majority of the competition. There are specialties from up and down the boot, from polenta and pasta to meat dishes and more. A little pricier than your average place, but you get what you pay for ... and more.
2500 N. Mayfair Rd., Wauwatosa, (414) 771-1300
Ruscello menu PDF
Ruscello is a chain of restaurants located in Nordstrom department stores, including the Milwaukee-area location at Mayfair Mall. You'll find attentive service and notably delicious food in a well-appointed dining room that's bright and comfortable, says OnMilwaukee dining editor Lori Fredrich.
2613 E. Hampshire St., (414) 964-2611
A small, cozy family-run place that is perfect for a gathering of friends, a family meal or an intimate date. Great veal saltimbocca, chicken parmigiana and halibut, too. The herbs are grown in the restaurant's rooftop garden. Located across the street from the UWM's historic Mitchell Hall, you can often find professors there relaxing between classes with a caprese panino.
Santino's Little Italy
352 E. Stewart St., (414) 897-7367
At Santino's, a hidden gem in Bay View, you can enjoy delicious pizzas and classic Italian dishes in a classic, old school Italian restaurant environment.
Stella Van Buren
550 N. Van Buren St., (414) 847-5622
Stella Van Buren is a modern Italian steakhouse with a sleek, airy vibe and a comfort food menu featuring housemade pasta, seafood and traditional steaks with all the trimmings.
2995 S. Clement Ave., (414) 431-1014
Tenuta's, run by a southern Italian family that arrived here at the dawn of the 1960s, has a range of pastas and entrees, including some classics that aren't often seen in Milwaukee, like the penne alla vodka and penne all'arrabbiata. Prices are reasonable and the atmosphere is lively in a small dining room in the heart of Bay View.
5080 S. 108th St., Greenfield (414) 425-7150
This is the kind of family Italian restaurant the Corleones would approve of. The LoPiparo family emigrated from Porticello, Sicily – where patriarch Antonino sold fruit and fish from a pony cart – and realized their dream of bringing fine Italian cuisine to America. There's a vast array of traditional dishes - be sure to come in on Sundays for all-you-can-eat spaghetti and mostaccioli.
1000 E. Rawson Ave., Oak Creek, (414) 574-5128
This family-run eatery in the southern suburbs dishes up the classics, like lasagne and chicken parmigiana, and also offers a kids menu.
741 N. Milwaukee St., (414) 225-0000
1515 W. Mequon Rd., Mequon, (262) 241-5990
Straddling fine dining and casual cuisine is no easy feat, but restaurateur Brian Zarletti appears to have hit on the right combination for their new Milwaukee Street eatery. Specializing in the country cooking of Northern Italy (the Piemonte, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany regions), Zarletti also offers over 75 choices on its wine list. Zarletti Mequon also offers wood-fired pizzas.
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