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Its name inspired by the Italian word for "living room," Salotto Zarletti is "from-scratch" happy.

Photo by Chris Kessler

Burrata is Italian for “buttered.” But burrata isn’t butter. Oh, no, my friends. It’s gooey, creamy, buttery fresh cheese that loves up a piece of rustic bread. Chef Andrew Miller and his kitchen comrades at Mequon’s new Italian joint, Salotto Zarletti, make their burrata from scratch. They’re making a lot of things from scratch, which is helping lure in North Shore diners who just don’t have that many choices in suburbia.

Earlier this year, Miller vacated the head chef’s gig at Brookfield’s HOM Wood-fired Grill. That was not a joint with a small personality. In discussions with Salotto owner Brian Zarletti about what they wanted this two-floor, open-kitchen-with-a-massive-wood-burning-oven enterprise to be, the 25-year-old chef made his claims for making as many ingredients as possible in-house. So far, that includes the pastas, breads, and several cheeses and charcuterie. 

Miller heads up an impressively sized staff. The count was at 26 in late spring, just after lunch service started. He projected adding as many as 20 more people once the patio opened. The focaccia appetizer alone is a three-day process. It’s a thick, rosemary-topped round bread stuffed with ricotta and crescenza cheeses, and topped with a fried egg ($9). It’s a lovely melding of flavors and textures, my second favorite of the hot appetizers, after the saffron arancini ($9) – fried rice balls filled with beef and smoked mozzarella. In summer, diners might gravitate to the cold plates, like the creamy slivered beef carpaccio-arugula-caper creation spritzed with agrodolce, an Italian sweet-sour sauce ($7).

Before opening Salotto in the old Laacke & Joys on Mequon Road, the owner talked up the resourceful wood-burning oven. It bakes pizzas, like the “Salotto” ($15) with housemade guanciale (cured pork cheek) and a crust (on this occasion too charred on the edges and soggy in the middle) . When it’s not firing at 900 degrees – but 600 degrees lower – the oven can slow-roast vegetables buried in the embers, or blister tomatoes for the nifty house-made mozzarella salad ($10). 

The menu turns comparatively lavish with the saltimbocca, a sautéed marriage of veal, prosciutto and sage, served with lacinato kale and roasted cipollini onions ($24). 

I expect to like the seared scallops ($29) more and the fennel cavatelli ($16) less. The scallops are overseared and the blood orange vinaigrette served with it undetectable. On the other hand, the handmade curved pasta – tossed with Italian sausage, blistered tomato, rapini and creamy bone marrow – is a terrific dish. 

As patio season heats up and the staff softens the rough edges, Salotto may offer the hottest seats in the North Shore. Ones to watch, at least. ■

➽ Salotto Zarletti
1515 W. Mequon Rd., Mequon, 262-241-5990. Hours: Daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Prices: Appetizers $5-$13; salads $6-$10; pasta, risotto $12-$18; pizza $9-$18; entrees $16-$29; desserts $7. Service: A large front-of-the-house staff that's not quite in sync but is in earnest. Dress: Skews casual. Credit cards: M V A DS. Handicap access: Yes. Reservations: Recommended.

This article appears in the July 2014 issue of Milwaukee Magazine. 
Read the rest of July issue online here, or subscribe to Milwaukee Magazine.




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