Jeffrey Merlot
Mr. and Mrs. M.

Carini’s LaConca d’Oro – What other Italian restaurants try to be

By - Feb 18th, 2010 07:00 am
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Carini's on Oakland Avenue

Carini’s on Oakland Avenue

When was the last time that you were at a nice restaurant and the chef came out to personally check on you and the other diners and to spend valuable kitchen time chatting? We’ve eaten in some of the best restaurants from New York to Paris, and rare is it when this occurs! But it was a splendid touch that capped off a wonderful, casual/fine-dining trip to Carini’s LaConca d’Oro, which is tucked away at 3468 N. Oakland Ave., just south of the Milwaukee/Shorewood city limits. (You know, that little Italian restaurant you’ve probably passed a hundred times in your car right by Otto’s Beverage on the upper east side.) Owner/operator Chef Peter Carini, who immigrated to the United States from Sicily at age 14, has the cure for all of us who still mourn the closing of Giovanni’s Restaurant that once dominated the corner of Van Buren and Wells.

The large, but cozy interior is rather well masked to busy people speeding by in the traffic out front by the restaurant’s rather inconspicuous exterior. Guests are welcomed into the restaurant, which opened in 1996, by a warmly decorated front bar area from where the two main dining rooms (which sparkle with tasteful touches of Italian photo art) are visible. The renovated front area also allows some open-air dining in warm weather when the giant street-front windows can be comfortably opened wide. (We can’t wait to enjoy that when the weather finally warms up!)

The menu includes something for everyone. There’s a wide range of classic Italian dishes, Sicilian specialties with lots of fresh seafood, vegetarian dishes, American favorites, a Friday fish fry and an Italian lunch buffet that is served Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for $8.95 to $15.

We started things off with the smaller of the two antipasto plates at a cost of $13. Nicely presented with generous layers of Italian cold cuts, delicately marinated vegetables and sharp, fontinella cheese, it was more than enough for both of us. Mrs. M. gave a big thumbs-up to one of the evening specials she thoroughly savored; it was an Italian classic featuring decorative spinach fettuccine in a creamy garlic sauce of more spinach and delicate, sautéed shrimp for $25. Mr. M. went with one of the spiedini dishes (very thin slices of beef, chicken, veal, swordfish or eggplant, stuffed and rolled with breadcrumbs, cheese and special seasonings). These are proclaimed to be the house specialty, so he chose the beef spiedini for $22.50. They were nicely grilled and elegantly served on a wooden skewer, but Mr. M. would recommend that Chef Peter remove the succulent spiedini from the skewers – and each of the tough basil leaves in between them – before serving so that some of the culinary-ignorant among us do not end up choking on a basil leaf and making a complete mess of his highly professional dish presentation! For the wine, we were compelled to try a bottle of Carini’s own Chianti from Italy for $22. Light and fruity, it was the perfect complement to everything on our table. Alas, not one drop of it survived to take home.

For dessert, we opted for the tiramisu. With one-of-a-kind, warm layers of creamy, café goodness, it was the best tiramisu Mrs. M. said she had ever eaten.

Definitely one of the east side’s best-kept secrets, Carini’s LaConca d’Oro is what a lot of other Italian restaurants want to be. Providing one of the best Italian dining experiences to be found in the metro area, it’s a nice, affordable way to escape the cold and live a sunny moment in Sicily right here in Milwaukee!

Carini’s LaConca d’Oro
3468 N. Oakland Ave., Milwaukee
Major credit cards accepted.

Mr. M. is a huge aficionado of Italian cuisine. The following is one of his recipes for classic, quick and easy-to-prepare Italian pasta and sauce.
Buon appetito!

Pappardelle with Spicy Sausage & Garlic-Herb Sauce

8 ounces pappardelle pasta nests – the really wide kind of pasta ribbons
½ pound hot/spicy Italian sausage meat, bulk or removed from the casing
1 packet Knorr brand Garlic & Herb sauce mix
1 pint milk (fat-free works great)
1 tablespoon butter

1. Boil the pasta according to directions, usually only seven minutes, stirring very sparingly due to its delicate nature.
2. Brown the sausage meat in a small skillet, using a fork to roughly break it up (not as fine as taco meat).
3. Prepare the Knorr sauce using a whole pint of milk; let it simmer for the prescribed time in the skillet of fried sausage meat (three minutes – but it can sit on low heat until everything else is ready).
4. Plate the pasta with kitchen tongs directly from the boil-water; let most water drip off before putting on plates.
5. Drizzle the plated pasta with the sauce and serve with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Categories: Dining, Mr. and Mrs. M.

0 thoughts on “Mr. and Mrs. M.: Carini’s LaConca d’Oro – What other Italian restaurants try to be”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Mr. M, please come and cook this for me, it sounds delicious. You can bring Mrs. M and Mr. W will join us. I have wine!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I forgot to mention that the recipe makes two servings. You should try making it yourself for you and Mr. W. – it’s an easy recipe! Julia Child is quoted as having said that she preferred French cooking over Italian because Italian cuisine “isn’t really cooking.” May she rest in peace, but I certainly beg to differ!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I totally have to amend this recipe! I’ve been actually breaking down the processed-food components in my recipes and successfully replacing them with ingredients from scratch! Instead of using the packaged Knorr mix, try it all from scratch – here’s how:


    8 oz. dry Pappardelle pasta
    ½ lb. hot Italian sausage meat (remove from casing)
    1 pint fat-free milk
    3 teaspoons flour
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    ½ teaspoon salt
    ½ teaspoon ground, black pepper
    1½ teaspoons garlic powder
    ¼ teaspoon each dried oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, red-pepper flakes & white pepper
    3 teaspoons (1 TBS.) Butter
    ½ teaspoon lemon juice
    1 teaspoon White wine


    Boil pasta according to directions (usually only 7 minutes, stirring very, very sparingly due to its delicate nature). Fresh pasta takes me about 15 minutes, for some weird reason!

    Brown the sausage meat in a small skillet, using a fork to break it all up roughly (not nearly as fine as taco meat).

    Mix the cornstarch with a little cold milk in a cup of small bowl to make a slurry. Add all the other ingredients into the skillet of fried sausage meat, then stir in the cornstarch-milk slurry. Simmer the sauce until thickened nicely.

    Plate the Pappardelle with kitchen-chef tongs directly from the boil-water (let most water drip off before putting on plates). Cover plated pasta with sauce and serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

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