Downtown Pizza’s chefs crown their signature pies with inventive toppings such as hawaiian jerk sauce and sliced corned beef before pairing them with wings, pastas, or gooey desserts. Tufted leather booths squeak as diners vie for the final slices of German pizza loaded with sauerkraut, bratwurst, and potatoes or steamy pot-pie pizzas that pile tender bits of chicken atop rosemary-crumble crust. Vegetarian pizzas arrive slathered in creamy pesto sauce or topped with marinated mock duck, and six varieties of sauce souse the breaded and baked chicken wings. Hanging lights emit a soft glow that accents the retro pizzeria’s red and turquoise walls on which vintage plates and kitschy salt and pepper shakers perch in shadowboxes and await puppet-show requests.
Chow down on hearty sandwiches while sipping fruit smoothies at The Hub, a cozy spot offering a bevy of huggable, Chicago-inspired comfort eats amid an inviting atmosphere. Patrons can choose from a host of menu items that satisfy both discerning and cast-iron palates. Allow taste buds free reign across the asiago roast beef panini, a melty marriage of roast beef, asiago cheese, ground mustard, optional red onions, and toasty italian bread ($6.49). All-beef Chicago-style hot dogs bench-press neon relish, diced onion, yellow mustard, and sport peppers atop a poppy seed bun ($3.39 each). The Hub features plentiful vegetarian options, such as the veggie dog ($3.19), three-cheese panini with mozzarella, provolone, and fontina on tart sourdough bread ($5.95), and harmoniously crunchy salads ($5.95–$7.95). Smoothies ($3.75 regular, $5.50 large) sweet-talk blushing tongues with a variety of flavors, including the breezy Brazilian Orchard (with açaí, peach, pear, and apricot), strawberry pineapple, and bubblegum. Bubble teas ($3.75) and milkshakes ($3–$3.50) pack a flavorful punch that’s more rejuvenating than outrunning a territorial badger during a morning jog.
At Mendini’s Restaurant on Main, piled-high platters transport steaming plates of pasta primavera, pan-seared salmon, crusty focaccia toast, and frosty drinks from the full bar to patrons' tables. Chefs dress the pan-seared salmon in honey-chipotle breading pajamas before tucking it into a bed of wild rice under a blanket of béarnaise sauce with a bite-size teddy bear for garnish ($15.95). Forks can tango with tender vegetables and twirl graceful linguine noodles on a plate of pasta primavera drenched in white-wine sauce ($10.95), and the crisp romaine lettuce, crunchy croutons, and creamy dressing of the signature caesar salad ($9.95) stirs feelings of jealousy in the unadorned vines climbing the restaurant walls. Patrons can pull up a barstool along the fully stocked bar to sip from Mendini’s wide selection of wines or to show off their good posture by balancing a stack of martini glasses on their heads.
Epicurean partners Angelo Vasta and Michael W. Major use their heart-and-stomach-spanning passion for cuisine to bring Milwaukee–area diners a stunning slice of The Boot. The dinner menu accounts for all tastes with fresh, authentic dishes such as the manicotti al cinghiale with braised wild boar in chianti wine sauce ($18) or the salmone alla griglia, a garlic- and tomato-tinged meal that pays tribute to its notoriously hard-drinking fish with a drizzle of chardonnay sauce ($22). Pizzas are available for those who only eat circles ($7.50–$9), and an extensive, elegant wine selection offers vinos that, unlike trendy store-bought versions, are not served in a box, fish bowl, or Ziploc bag with a Twizzler straw.
A fourth generation restaurateur, Ferrante’s owner Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer mines her rich ancestry to feed the North Shore irresistible Italian cuisine made from enduring family recipes. Pie guys go for specialty pizzas such as the olive oil and garlic-coated tomato basil ($22.15 for a large) or the Amy’s, a meaty mix of sausage, pepperoni, bacon, and ham (22.15 for a large).
Rosati’s Pizza's history dates back to the early 1900s, when a recent Italian immigrant named Ferdinand Rosati moved from New York to Chicago with the dream of opening a restaurant. His first attempt was modest—with Ferdinand simultaneously fulfilling the duties of chef, server, dishwasher, and host—but quickly gained popularity for its crispy-thin-crust pizzas, originally served as complimentary appetizers. Encouraged by the public's response to the pies, Ferdinand and his son, Sam, decided to focus their efforts on opening a true pizzeria.
Today, at Rosati's Pizza locations across the country, plumes of heat swirl above piping-hot pies concocted from handmade sauce and dough. A smattering of toppings cling to five crust options—crispy thin, double dough, Chicago-style, pan, and superstuffed—as well as hide from their hungry predators inside hand-rolled calzones. Homemade lasagna and fettuccine alfredo battle for the top pasta spot, and fried chicken, baby back ribs, and fried-shrimp dinners work together to distract diners from hard-to-resist buffalo wings.