522 S. EIGHTH ST., SHEBOYGAN, 920-452-8455
This unpretentious spot for rustic Italian cuisine is one of the best restaurants in Wisconsin. It’s the sort of rock star-consistent place where you’re virtually guaranteed a great meal. Try the chicken stuffed with truffle butter under the skin, osso buco with Strauss veal shanks and saffron risotto, or the casarecce pasta topped with an Italian sausage/ground beef ragu (a sauce recipe that comes from the owner’s grandmother). Stefano’s siblings, Il Ritrovo and Duke of Devon, are also on this list and deservedly. Open Monday-Saturday for dinner. $7.95-$48.95.
725E WOODLAKE RD., KOHLER, 920-452-3888
This 1-year-old, which overlooks Wood Lake at The Shops at Woodlake, made news last spring when it announced the arrival of head chef Thomas Hauck, who came to MKE prominence when he owned c. 1880 in Walker’s Point. The menu here is a mix of wood-fired and comfort food-inspired dishes, from which you can select thin-crust pizzas, a burger, lamb osso buco, seared and roasted rainbow trout, chipotle sweet potato tacos and much more. Open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. $5-$43.
3. Il Ritrovo
515 S. EIGHTH ST., SHEBOYGAN, 920-803-7516
One of only a four certified Neapolitan-style pizzerias in the state (certified, that is, by an organization called VPN Americas, which has strict guidelines), the casual, friendly space serves to-die-for pies. If you’ve never had Neapolitan pizza, it’s a treat, let me tell you. The crust is pillowy and slightly charred on the edges with a decidedly wet middle. That’s a good thing. The toppings are usually simple – peeled crushed tomato, fresh basil, buffalo mozzarella. Il Ritrovo gets a little fancier with its toppings, and a favorite of mine is the Boscaiola, with mozzarella, truffle cheese, roasted, pancetta and roasted mushrooms. Open for Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. $6.95-$19.95.
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2427 CALUMET DR., 920-395-2868
Small/shareable plates is the theme here, and they are varied in their inspiration. Make a date with the Korean cauliflower wings, banh mi tacos, Thai chicken dumplings or Mexican street corn. There’s even pizza, curries and sandwiches. It’s a gastronomic trip around the world. Open for dinner Wednesday-Saturday. $5-$17.
925 N. EIGHTH ST., 920-459-8155
An old-school timewarp of dark wood and upholstered booths, this supper club serves a smashing Friday fish fry. You want the deluxe perch plate, which includes a trip to the salad bar. If the fry isn’t for you, there are sandwiches, chicken dishes, items “From the Grill” (pork chops, BBQ ribs, NY strip), and a traditional German veal schnitzel. Prime rib is the Saturday night special. Open for dinner daily. $9-$57.
739 RIVERFRONT DRIVE, SHEBOYGAN, 920-458-7900
Are you jones-ing for some English pub fare? The Duke is your place. Go for the fish and chips with curry slaw and house-cut fries or the cottage pie with root vegetables and stewed beef. But you’ll be just as happy with a truffle mushroom burger or the chicken tikka masala. Open Wednesday-Saturday for lunch and dinner; Sunday brunch, too. $8-$30.
668 S. PIER DR., SHEBOYGAN, 920-451-9100
Like Il Ritrovo, Harry’s is known for certified Neapolitan-style pizza. And these 12-inch pies are beauties – from the simple (topped with tomato sauce, house-made mozzarella and fresh basil) to the, well, less simple (the three aforementioned ingredients, plus mascarpone, garlic, sausage and tomato). Harry’s serves pastas and calzones, as well. Open Tuesday-Sunday for dinner. $15-$24.
6018 SUPERIOR AVE, KOHLER, 920-467-8599
Set inside a 130-year-old brick farmhouse, The Blind Horse is a New American joint with flavors inspired by Napa Valley. Entrées range from the Blind Horse burger to Canadian walleye, pork osso buco to house-made pasta with “Napa” ragu (with beef tenderloin and Italian sausage). And yes, the venue also an on-site winery, which hosts wine and cheese (and chocolate) pairings in its tasting room. Open Monday-Saturday for dinner. $6-$34.