Nominated as one of the area’s best Italian spots last year on WISN.com's A-List, this Italian-American fusion eatery serves a menu of family-style dishes and handmade entrees. Mike’s signature lasagna awaits noodle enthusiasts ($8.99), along with an à la carte menu ($8.99–$21.99, plus toppings), from which guests choose a pasta, sauce, meats, and vegetables. Create-your-own pizzas top a handmade thin crust with a La Susa family vine-ripened-tomato sauce and a crown of 100% real Wisconsin mozzarella ($5.99–$11.99, plus toppings). A spicy La Susa specialty pie enlivens bland mouth dances with a wheel of fir sporting a menagerie of sausage medallions kick-lining across a field of bacon, as well as habanero-pepper Hustle-performers ($17.99).
Since 1981, the ovens of Michaelangelo's Pizza have produced piping-hot pizzas piled with a variety of toppings. Sausage, pepperoni, olives, and pineapple arrive on delectable thin crusts. Meanwhile, pasta sauces coat lasagna, spaghetti, and ravioli. Steak sandwiches, hamburgers, and meatball sandwiches pair well with beers such as Peroni, Heineken, and Miller.
In 1963, Sal Barbiere founded his eponymous Italian Inn on the principles of “Family, Superb Food, and Quality Ingredients,” according to the restaurant's website. So it was no surprise that he decided to keep the eatery in the family, passing Barbiere's to his son Steve when he retired. And when, 34 years later, Steve was ready to retire in his turn, he also passed the mantle to someone trustworthy: employee Mark Dempsey, who is himself nearly family—he has been working at the restaurant since he was 16 years old.
Today, Dempsey has expanded the restaurant to two locations, both still serving Sal's signature garlic bread and other tried-and-true Italian dishes. Chefs in his kitchens prepare pans of lasagna and spaghetti with meat or meatless sauce. Baked-to-order pizzas feature an array of topping choices including italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes. Grand Marnier from the full bar fortifies pitchers of housemade red sangria, which enhance the food's bold, Italian flavors as well as boring white napkins that definitely look better in tie-dye.
Within the cream-colored brick exterior of a century-old city building, Papa Luigi’s II marries an Italian restaurant with a bowling alley. Amid the wood paneling, wine-red carpet, and chandeliers of the dining room, taste buds can warm up with the house’s favorite appetizer—sicilian eggplant lathered in Papa’s special marinara sauce. Thin-n-crispy pizzas, which Papa Luigi’s II has been perfecting for 23 years, come loaded with canadian bacon or shrimp.
After meals, guests can adjourn to the newly remodeled, smoke-free bowling alley. Here, shining orbs hurtle down 10 lanes whose automatic bumpers forgive shaky aim, and an automatic scoring system lets bowlers tuck their personal mathematicians back into the trunks of their cars. Between rounds, players can refuel at a pub-style bar by tipping back chilled mugs brimming with imported tap beers and gazing at a trio of plasma televisions. Those seeking a new arena for competition can drop by the game room or rent the upstairs gym for shooting hoops.
You'll never find canned tomatoes or a pre-made pizza crust in the kitchen at Valentina's Pizzeria, where the staff prides itself on the ingredients it makes in-house every day, from the freshly grated cheese to the sauce mixed with herbs straight from the garden. Owner Greg Steele oversees the crafting of a menu filled with a selection of pizzas, calzones, and subs as well as sides such as eggplant fries and cheese bread.
Portabella Bakery & Cafe's red-brick oven dispenses flame-kissed pizzas while chefs stack meats on sandwiches and wrap sugary dough around traditional Italian pastries. With more than a decade of experience in the Italian restaurant business, the Matera family prances down the kitchen’s aisles, piling gourmet toppings such as feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichoke hearts onto personal pizzas and focaccia paninis.
Sourdough bowls brim with an ever-shifting selection of house-made soups, and the bakery’s glass displays showcase muffins, cannolis, and bagels affectionately modeled after Italian moped wheels. Cups of Seattle's Best Coffee, bottles of domestic and imported beers, and glasses of white and red wines rest on wooden tabletops, and waiters reenact the burning of Rome by pausing to play the fiddle beside a roaring fireplace.