Homemade from egg, spinach, or whole wheat, The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar's namesake pasta earned the eatery the honor of best Italian restaurant and runner-up for best romantic restaurant on Express Milwaukee's Best of Milwaukee 2012 list. Now celebrating 30 years of dining excellence, chefs toss them with ingredients such as a gorgonzola Alfredo sauce, caramelized mushrooms, and Australian lobster tail. They incorporate more local ingredients into other homemade delicacies, such as fresh baked bread and tiramisu.
To help wash down each homemade bite, barkeeps pour reds and whites by the glass, whip up classic cocktails, and decant local beers. Feasts unfold in The Pasta Tree Restaurant & Wine Bar's European-style bistro, split between an intimate dining room and a cozy wine bar. There, a fireplace thaws chilly customers in the winter, while a secret garden patio opens in summer to surround diners with aromatic flowers, tranquil fountains, and gnomes that lust after your food but never touch it. Customers also have the option to take the bistro fare to take to a festival or enjoy in a park or on a boat by ordering the gourmet picnic basket for two .
The menu at Pancake Cafe is impressive—almost as impressive as their nine straight awards for Best Breakfast in Madison Magazine’s Best of Madison. For breakfast, the staff serves home-style meals such as oven-baked omelets or house-made biscuits and gravy. The eatery’s namesake comes in unexpected varieties, including an award-winning apple pancake that’s baked for 20 minutes with fresh fruit, baker’s sugar, and Sinkiang cinnamon glaze. Pancake Cafe also whips up gluten-free versions and an old-fashioned potato pancake capped with applesauce or sour cream. They even squeeze fresh orange juice by wringing out a traffic cone as aggressively as possible. At lunch, servers put the waffles down for a nap and begin presenting plates of white-albacore tuna melts, Angus burgers, and Chicago-style italian beef sandwiches.
While working at a national pizza chain, Scott Gittrich looked at the palette of ingredients around him and wondered why pizza seemed so limited. Then in 1991 he got his chance to experiment. He opened the first Toppers Pizza, combining a fun, party-fueling atmosphere with edible concoctions that topped housemade dough with unexpected delicacies such as mac ‘n' cheese and a deconstructed gyro. More than 19 house specialty pies make use of freshly kneaded dough, transporting classic recipes and unheard-of combinations to get people excited about pizza again. And the people respond, enjoying the treats as much as Scott himself, who once went 60 days eating at least one meal a day from Toppers.
Today Toppers Pizza stretches across the country, peppering the Midwest and reaching to the East Coast. Along with pizzas, the cooks oven-toast their grinder sandwiches, which are built on artisanal french bread and stuffed with ingredients such as chipotle chicken and italian sausage. Signature Topperstix—breadsticks adorned with cheese, garlic butter, and toppings such as bacon and pepperoni—accompany pizza orders, silencing rumbling bellies until the early morning.
The first pie Nick-N-Willy's Pizza's chefs ever baked came out of an oven in Boulder, Colorado, but its menu travels the globe. Classic Italian combinations abound, but there's also the Greek-influenced feta-topped Aegean pizza, the Canadian Chicken Club, and a barbecue-chicken variety. The creative combinations can also be freshly made and ready for home ovens via a take-and-bake option.
Under the direction of chef Eddie Castillo, The Pink Magnolia serves an eclectic menu that's equal parts comfort food and upscale cuisine, with an emphasis on non-farm-raised fish, organic ingredients, and hormone-free meat. By placing escargots alongside mac 'n' cheese and by whipping up lobster-stuffed burgers and salmon BLTs, the cooks combine upscale motifs with straightforward American fun, like a man wearing a tuxedo and stilts. At the eatery's full-service bar, bartenders complement meals with domestic and imported beers as well as signature cocktails blended with fresh juices and herbs.
Owners Brian Glassel and Tim Nicholson eventually teamed up to bring Glass Nickel Pizza Co. to fruition in 1997 after spending their teenage years working around the nostalgic aromas of baking pizzas in Wisconsin eateries. They met while working in the same pizzeria and shared a passion for gourmet pies, so they spent a year planning and dreaming. Then they gathered a small but dedicated team to flip the saucy dough and accommodate patrons with first-class customer service, including the provision of tall glasses brimming with cold beer. Their dedication to this modus operandi helped the restaurant to bloom into a statewide fixture with several locations throughout Wisconsin.
While keeping pizza the star of the menu, Brian and Tim augmented it by adding battered-fish baskets, meaty lasagnas, stacked sandwiches, and crispy chicken. Committed to quality, the duo uses house-made sauce and dough, as well as Boar’s Head deli meats. With an equal commitment to their community, they help to support various nonprofit organizations and keep all their restaurants green through the use of ovens that shut off when not in use, energy-efficient appliances, LED lighting, and cars that run on used vegetable oil and time-travel only when absolutely necessary.