Milwaukee Italian Dining Guide: 14 Italian Restaurants That Will Cure Your Pasta Cravings

All the red sauce you can stomach (and a heaping plate of carbs, too).

Map of Milwaukee Italian Restaurants

1) Balistreri’s Bluemound Inn

The fancier brother restaurant to Balistreri’s pizza on 68th Street is a terrific, time-warpy spot for classics like mushroom risotto, linguine carbonara, veal Marsala and eggplant parmesan.
6501 W. Bluemound Rd.

2) Calderone Club

Classic, old-school touches shine through this Downtown Italian’s copious menu, including fried eggplant, veal piccata, chicken parm and spaghetti and meatballs. Pizza is also a big deal here too. The recipe for Calderone’s pies comes from the Caradaro Club, a pioneer of the Milwaukee thin-crust style.
842 N. Old World Third St.

Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

3) Carini’s La Conca D’Oro

Founder Peter Carini’s Sicilian heritage is reflected in the specialties offered here, from Sicilian steak and spiedini to seafood pastas. And the restaurant’s wood-fired oven is to thank for the restaurant’s menu of very good 12-inch Neapolitan-style pizzas.
3468 N. Oakland Ave.

4) Centro Café

The owners furnished this storefront with a salvaged marble-top bar and old church pew seating. The affordable menu offers simple pasta, app and pizza preparations. Favorites: pan-fried gnocchi, and penne with salsiccia.
808 E. Center St.

5) Dino’s Riverwest

Din’s Sunday sugo for you-go. Photo by Chris Kessler.

The third-generation owners offer old family recipes (the Friday fried fish) with new dishes like Italian shrimp and grits. Also good specials such as Thursday’s $5 burger.
808 E. Chambers St.

6) Divino Wine + Dine

Divino Wine & Dine; photo by Dominic Inouye

If you remember and loved Palermo Villa, Divino is run by the same family and does an extra-special job with its meatballs and marinara, grilled octopus, pasta puttanesca and a selection of pizzas. Try the lasagna or Silician meatloaf.
2315 N. Murray Ave.

7) Nessun Dorma

This cozy Riverwest bar known for panini and a great appetizer meat-and-cheese plate also serves nightly specials with a comfort food vibe, like spaghetti with meat sauce and garlic bread.  
2778 N. Weil St.

8) Onesto

Photo courtesy of Onesto

The modern Italian focus manifests in the appetizers (spreads fig, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese, served in small jars) and the pastas (sweet corn “capelette” – similar to tortellini – with browned butter, leeks and paprika). Onesto – an Italian word that translates to “honest” – is part of the AJ Bombers/Holey Moley/Smoke Shack family of restaurants.  
221 N. Broadway

9) Ristorante Bartolotta dal 1993

Ristorante Bartolotta

The eldest of the Bartolotta Restaurants is an elegant yet cozy spot for rustic Italian cuisine. Executive chef Juan Urbieta has built a sensational menu of favorites to return to (pappardelle with braised duck ragu is a classic) and seasonal dishes that fill the urge for something new.
7616 W. State St.

10) SALA

SALA; photo by Adam Ryan Morris

Red walls and colorful canvases decorate the dining room at this casual spot near UW-Milwaukee. Start with the baked goat cheese in tomato-basil sauce, follow with chicken Marsala. Valet parking available in the evenings.
2613 E. Hampshire St.

11) Stella Van Buren

Mediterranean branzino at Stella Van Buren

This polished hotel restaurant strives to impress with its bourbon list and dinner menu of steaks and house-made pastas.
Westin Hotel, 550 N. Van Buren St.

12) Tenuta’s

Not just a pizza joint. This little neighborhood charmer offers solid pastas (mushroom ravioli, house-made chicken sausage with orecchiette) and entrées like chicken piccata.
2995 S. Clement Ave.

13) Tre Rivali

Tre Rivali’s bright dining room. Photo by Adam Ryan Morris.

Hotel resto offering nibbly plates and Mediterranean creations like whole branzino.
Kimpton Journeyman Hotel, 200 N. Broadway, Suite 100

14) Zarletti

Zarletti; photo by Adam Ryan Morris

The modern space is devoted to classic, regional cuisine. Order osso bucco or rack of lamb. Tiny and intimate.
741 N. Milwaukee St.



Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.