spaghetti at best Italian restaurants in Milwaukee

11 Best Italian Restaurant in Milwaukee

Looking for the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee? Whether it’s for family pizza night or for a romantic date sharing some pasta, Italian restaurants are a ubiquitous part of the American dining tradition. There is no shortage of fantastic Milwaukee Italian restaurants.

Some are better for pizza, while others are better for other types of Italian dishes, like plates of pasta, fresh salads, and other entrees that incorporate traditional Italian ingredients like parmesan, balsamic, freshly made pasta, and other delicacies.

Below is a list of the best Italian restaurants in Milwaukee that excel at serving classic and more unique Italian-inspired cuisine, from places with red-checkered tablecloths and Chianti bottle candle holders, to modern Milwaukee Italian restaurants serving up the highest quality ingredients in the finest settings. Read further to learn about all the best Italian restaurants Milwaukee has to offer.


1. Balistreri’s Bluemound Inn

Balistreri’s Bluemound Inn is one of those classic Italian-American restaurants located about fifteen minutes west of downtown. The restaurant is cozy and there is a spacious outdoor patio for summer.

The pizza at Balistreri’s is phenomenal – in fact, the same family owns a second restaurant nearby that has a slightly smaller menu and is perfect if you only plan on getting a pie. While there are no red-checkered tablecloths at Balistreri’s Bluemound Inn, the restaurant has everything else you might want in an Italian-American restaurant and is well worth a visit.

Balistreri’s has an extensive menu of delicious dishes. Start out with the garlic toast caponata, which comes with garlic-brushed toasted bread topped with eggplant, capers, tomato, olives, and pine nuts ($7), or try the tomato artichoke gratin, artichoke hearts in a tomato garlic cream sauce topped with a five cheese blend and baked until perfection ($10). There are excellent salads to choose from, in addition to a daily risotto special.

For dinner, try the Pasta Balistreri with delicious Italian sausage roasted garlic, bell peppers, fennel, and mushrooms in a marinara sauce tossed with rigatoni noodles ($17). While there are several great seafood options, one can’t visit Balistreri’s without trying the Triniciaccietti, or breaded skirt steak fried Sicilian style and served alongside pasta tossed in garlic butter – it’s truly amazing.

  • Address: 6501 W. Bluemound Rd.
  • Hours: Sunday – Thursday 11 am – 1o pm | Friday & Saturday 11 am – 11 pm | Closed Tuesday
  • View Menu Here

2. Carini’s La Conca d’Ora

Carini’s La Conca d’Ora is an Italian restaurant specializing in all things Sicilian on Milwaukee’s east side. The restaurant serves up wood-fired pizzas from a traditional Neapolitan oven, and has great weeknight specials, like half-off bottles of wine on Sunday, $10 Margherita pizzas on Tuesday, buy one get half one half off appetizers on Wednesday, and discounted Chicken Parmesan on Thursdays. The restaurant also features an Italian-inspired Friday fish fry. Try Carini’s for one of the best family-owned and operated Sicilian restaurants in the city.

The food at Carini’s takes classic Italian dishes to an entirely new level with fresh ingredients, perfect seasoning, and by having less common dishes on the menu. Try starting your meal with the Arancini Piccolo, deep-fried rice balls stuffed with meat sauce, peas, and cheese ($10). The bruschetta, or grilled bread with tomatoes, garlic, and basil, is also fresh tasting and excellent ($9). For something crunchy and light, try the Chef Peter Salad, which serves two and comes with lettuce, prosciutto, soppressata, and fontinella cheese ($15).

For dinner, try the Spaghetti Gamberi, with shrimp, fresh tomato sauce, onion, garlic, and marinara ($21), or the Sicilian cod with breadcrumbs and lemon ($18.50). For a truly decadent dinner, try the rack of lamb, which comes marinated in garlic oil, topped with seasoned breadcrumbs, and served with whipped potatoes ($25 half rack/ $40 full rack). For the best of Sicily, try Carini’s.

  • Address:3468 N Oakland Ave.
  • Hours: Lunch: Sunday, Tuesday – Thursday 3pm-8pm | Friday & Saturday 3pm-9pm
  • View Menu Here

Related Article: Best Pizza in Milwaukee

 

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3. Dorsia

Dorsia is a new addition to Brady Street, long known on the east side as the central hub of what used to be a primarily Italian neighborhood in Milwaukee. Any Italian restaurant in Milwaukee to open on Brady Street comes with high expectations, and Dorsia executes modern twists on Italian classics in a superb fashion.

With an artistically inspired interior and later than normal hours, Dorsia draws crowds throughout the week. Unlike most other Italian restaurants, Dorsia also offers pasta flights, or small samples of pasta so customers can try two, three, or even more types of pasta in one sitting, making for a fun and tasty experience. Grab a weekend reservation at Dorsia and unwind from the week with exceptional Italian cuisine and top-notch drinks.

Stop by Dorsia for the weekday happy hour when you can get a dollar off tap beers, $4 house sangria, $5 kettle mixers, $6 tap wine, specials on appetizers, and plan on staying for dinner. Kick-off your meal with the burrata served with fig mostarda and balsamic glaze ($12), or the board of artisanal select cheeses ($16). The salads at Dorsia are excellent. Try the brussels sprouts salad with kale, shaved parmesan, dried fruit, roasted hazelnuts, and dijon vinaigrette ($14).

There are numerous pasta options, so you may choose to go with pasta flights. The duck carbonara is fabulous, which is bucatini with duck confit, parmesan, spring peas, and guanciale ($23). The Linguini and Clams or linguini with littleneck clams, parmesan, fennel, bell peppers, and lemon is also exceptional ($21). Dorsia also serves great pizzas, like the Biancellino, with roasted garlic parmesan fonduta, pulled bacon, ricotta, mozzarella, cheddar, and green onion ($18). Stop by Brady Street for the unique Italian favorites at Dorsia.

  • Address:1307 E. Brady St.
  • Hours: Monday-Saturday, 4pm-10pm | Sunday, 11am-10pm
  • View Menu Here

4. Il Mito Trattoria e Enoteca

Il Mito Trattoria e Enoteca is one of the best Italian restaurants in Milwaukee by offering authentic gourmet Italian dishes to be found elsewhere. In fact, though located in the middle of Milwaukee, this is the type of restaurant that would thrive in Chicago, New York, or just about any major city.

The restaurant also has a neat chef’s counter for dinner service and offers cooking classes that can make for a fun gift for the cook in the family. There are also some specials to take advantage of, such as Sunday through Thursday a create your own three-course meal for $30 based on a slightly more limited menu than normal. Plan your next special meal at Il Mito.

Given the top-quality nature of the food at Il Mito, it’s pretty difficult to single down just a few meal suggestions. Try starting with the Frutti di mare en guazetto, basically, mussels, shrimp, bay scallops, and clams in a tomato white wine broth served with grilled bread perfect for mopping up the tasty sauce ($15). If not in the mood for a seafood appetizer, try the jumbo mushroom caps stuffed with Italian cheeses, herbs, and diced mushrooms baked in a rich tomato sauce ($9). For something fresher, try the Insalata di cavolo e barbabietole, a tasty salad with shredded kale, shaved beets, walnuts, goat cheese, and a grapefruit vinaigrette ($10).

There are numerous options for dinner. Il Mito makes great pizza and offers quite a few pasta dishes, like the Fekerized lasagna with layered lasagna noodles, shredded short rib, blended cheese, bechamel sauce, tomato, and asparagus ($18). Otherwise try the stinco di agnello afumicato, which is braised lamb shank with wine served with eggplant polenta ($23).

  • Address:6913 W. North Ave.
  • Hours:Closed Monday | Tuesday-Thursday, 5pm-9pm | Friday-Saturday, 5pm-10pm | Sunday, 5pm-8:30pm
  • View Menu Here

 

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5. Onesto

Onesto is located right in the middle of the Historic Third Ward, making it a convenient option for dinner after some shopping or hitting other Third Ward attractions. The restaurant excels at serving upscale Italian cuisine in a trendy setting, though the prices of the dishes don’t necessarily reflect the top quality food and the perfect location.

Onesto has a great menu that ranges from sharable small plates to larger entrees, so it’s ideal for a quick drink and a snack or for a full meal. Next time you find yourself in the Third Ward and wanting Italian food in Milwaukee, give Onesto a try.

Try starting your meal with one of Onesto’s tasty stuffed jars, such as one filled with kalamata olive tapenade, roasted garlic, and herbed cheese ($9). Another great appetizer is the sauteed calamari with shallot, garlic, tomato, lemon, and fennel seeds ($15), or one of the meat and cheese boards. The salads are also excellent. For dinner, try the pasta bolognese with homemade spaghetti ($21), or the butternut squash capallete with pecorino cream sauce, chives, and balsamic reduction ($16).

The mains are also great, like the crispy seared salmon with clams, kale, and onion ($23). Another entree worth trying is the grilled eggplant with cannelloni, stuffed with basil ricotta, pesto, provolone, and topped with sage marinara ($17). Make a reservation for Onesto and prepare to be satisfied.

  • Address:221 N. Broadway
  • Hours:Monday-Saturday, 11am-10pm |Sunday, 4am-9pm
  • View Menu Here

6. Ristorante Bartolotta

The Bartolotta restaurant group has a small empire of restaurants in the Milwaukee area, including great seafood and steak restaurants. However, their flagship restaurant is Ristorante Bartolotta, a cozy Italian restaurant in a historic building located in Wauwatosa, just west of downtown.

Many people would say it is the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee for serving up simple yet incredibly tasty dishes that are certain to impress. For a decadent dinner filled with a range of breathtaking dishes, set your next weekend reservation for Ristorante Bartolotta.

Start your meal off right with the affettato misto di salumi all emilia, the board with artisan cured meats and gnocco fritto ($14), or the carpaccio, with thinly sliced beef tenderloin with red onions, capers, and arugula ($11). The salads are a great choice before your pasta dish, such as the pappardelle al ragu d’anatra, or house made large ribbon pasta with a slow-cooked duck ragu and grana ($18/$27). For an entree, try the wood-roasted pork chop with green beans, roast potatoes, and Marsala mushroom sauce ($42). Be sure to check the menu ahead of time, since it frequently changes with seasonal ingredients at Ristorante Bartolotta.

  • Address:7616 W. State St., Wauwatosa
  • Hours: Wednesday – Sunday 5 pm-9 pm | Closed Monday & Tuesday
  • View Menu Here

7. Sala

Sala is a charming family-owned Italian restaurant tucked away into an east-side neighborhood near the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The restaurant is pretty small, it basically feels like someone’s living room, though in summer there are often a few extra tables placed out on the sidewalk.

Sala is perfect for date night, or a tasty weekday lunch with friends. The food is always fresh tasting, and they specialize in many of the dishes that people expect from an Italian restaurant. For that locals only feel to your next Italian meal, try out Sala on the east side. If you ask us it’s one of the three best Italian restaurants in Milwaukee.

Any of the appetizers at Sala make for an ideal way to start your meal. Try the prosciutto wrapped asparagus that are grilled and served with a Boursin sauce ($10), or the carpaccio with olive oil, capers, and parmesan ($14). The minestrone of the day is always good, as is the risotto daily special. For dinner, go with the gnocchi with spinach and gorgonzola cream sauce ($19), or the Saltimbocca, which is chicken, prosciutto, cheese, and a sage beurre blanc served with angel hair ($24). The chicken marsala is excellent ($25), and make sure to save room because the tiramisu at Sala is some of the best around ($8).

  • Address: 2613 E. Hampshire
  • Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 2pm-9pm | Friday 12pm-9pm
  • View Menu Here

8. Stella Van Buren

Stella Van Buren is one of the best newcomers to the best Italian restaurant in Milwaukee dining scene. Located inside of the trendy Westin Hotel, the location couldn’t be more ideal – it’s located right between downtown and the Historic Third Ward near the lakefront.

The restaurant serves brunch, lunch, and dinner, and boasts an awesome bar worth stopping by just for a drink. However, once you see the food you’ll know the restaurant is more than just a posh setting with excellent cocktails. The Italian food is top-notch, and the menu is expansive enough that making a choice is nearly impossible. Whether you staying at the Westin or not, Stella is a perfect choice for a meal.

Starting with the classic meatballs with grilled ciabatta and marinara is a must ($12), as are trying the crispy parmesan potatoes with truffle aioli ($10). For pasta, try the spicy gulf shrimp spaghetti ($26), or the vodka marinara ($24). Stella also boasts some phenomenal steaks and fish, and Berkshire pork chop that should be famous ($37).

  • Address:550 N. Van Buren St.
  • Hours:Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 7am-10am | Dinner: Monday – Saturday 5pm-10pm
  • View Menu Here

9. Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant

Tenuta’s is one of those corner Italian restaurants tucked away in a neighborhood that seems transported from a different era. Located in Bay View, Tenuta’s is a destination worthy restaurant for staple Italian-American cuisine and excellent pizzas. For that comforting plate of pasta and a glass of Chianti, Tenuta’s is hard to beat.

You can also expect great discounts on drinks during Tenuta’s Sunday through Thursday 4pm-6pm happy hour, along with Wednesday half-off bottles of wine. Especially on weekends, Tenuta’s gets pretty packed with locals and out of towners alike, so be sure to set a reservation.

Any meal at Tenuta’s should begin with the fritta, fresh mozzarella with marinara and romano ($10), or the bruschetta, grilled bread with tomato, garlic, basil, and balsamic ($10). It’s hard to pass up the pizza at Tenuta’s, especially since they have everything from thin to deep dish options. The diavola is fantastic. It comes with pepperoni, giardiniera, mozzarella, cream cheese, and pineapple ($14 for a small, $20 for a large).

The pasta is also excellent, like the cavola with house-made chicken sausage, kale, garlic, chili flake, and orecchiette ($18), or the carbonara with pancetta, peas, spaghetti, cream, and an egg ($20). There are a few entree options as well, like the peposo, a black pepper braised beef short rib with a porcini mushroom risotto. For that perfect Italian-American restaurant experience, try Tenuta’s in Bay View.

  • Address: 2995 Clement Ave., Bay View
  • Hours: Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday, 4pm-10pm | Friday and Saturday, 4pm-10pm | Closed Monday
  • View Menu Here

10. The Pasta Tree

Nestled away on the popular Farwell Avenue on the east side, The Pasta Tree has been a favorite spot for romantic dates and top-quality Italian food for several decades. With rotating daily specials and occasional coupons online, you can get a great deal and will easily find your perfect dish at The Pasta Tree.

The dining room is exceptionally comfortable, and during summer, there is a great hidden away outdoor patio. All the pasta tastes house-made, and it always is cooked to perfection. Join in on a local favorite by trying out The Pasta Tree. On my last girl’s night out we all wanted pasta and were looking for one of the best Italian restaurants in Milwaukee and we all agreed The Pasta Tree was one of those spots we keep coming back to.

For an appetizer, consider starting out with the jumbo shrimp sauteed in garlic, olive oil, herbs, and white wine ($16), or the arugula and fennel salad with crispy prosciutto and truffle oil ($14). When it comes to an entree, it’s hard to go wrong with the cioppino with shrimp, scallops, mussels, lobster tail, and tilapia in a rich tomato sauce ($34). The fettucini alfredo is a classic and perfectly executed at The Pasta Tree with cream, romano cheese, and mushrooms ($18). The tortellini with parmesan and choice of sauce is also great ($22), as is the homemade manicotti, or stuffed rolled pasta sheets with ricotta, mozzarella, herbs, and a choice of sauce ($22).

  • Address: 1503 N. Farwell Ave.
  • Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 5pm -9pm | Sunday 5pm-8pm | Closed Monday & Tuesday
  • View Menu Here

11. Zarletti

Zarletti is located on trendy Milwaukee Street in the heart of downtown and has been impressing customers with gourmet Italian dishes for some time now. The service and food are always excellent, and given the location, the restaurant is convenient for dinner before or after any downtown activities. It’s also perfect for those staying in nearby hotels. You can’t go wrong relying on Zarletti for your next special night out.

Start off your meal with some seafood, like the Gamberi Pancetta, or shrimp wrapped in pancetta and grilled with rosemary ($14), or the cozze alla senape, or fresh mussels steamed in dijon cream sauce ($11). A really original item worth trying are the crespelle di granchio, or the baked crepes filled with crab, mascarpone, wild mushrooms, and brown sage butter ($14). The soups and salads are all worth a try.

For an entree, go with the ravioli del Giorno, or ragu della casa ($25), or the pasta salsiccia al Marsala with spicy Italian sausage, onions, mushrooms, and walnuts in a marsala cream sauce ($21). For something lighter, try the pollo arrosta, which is oven roasted chicken with pan sauce and carrot risotto ($24). If none of these make your mouth water, then check out one of the daily specials at Zarletti.

  • Address: 741 N. Milwaukee St.
  • Hours: Monday – Wednesday 5pm-8pm | Thursday – Saturday 5pm-9pm
  • View Menu Here

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