Southeast Wisconsin’s own piece of Naples
Just as Wisconsin has its very own piece of Valencia, Spain on Milwaukee’s lake front (the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Calatrava addition, a long-distance relative of Valencia’s massive City of Arts & Sciences designed by Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava), we also have our very own piece of Naples, Italy in Sheboygan.
Located downtown at 515 South 8th Street in the City of Sheboygan, Il Ritrovo (pronounced “eel ree-trovo”) is one of only three restaurants in the State of Wisconsin that meet the strict membership-certification requirements of the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association (the other two are in Madison and Hudson). In other words, the pizza at Il Ritrovo is certified as being authentic, Neapolitan-style pizza by authorities in Naples itself!
Owner Stefano Viglietti brought in an experienced pizzaiolo pizza cook from Positano, Italy to train the staff. He spoke no English, but Viglietti, who speaks fluent Italian, interpreted for him.
Il Ritrovo is divided into two sections: The restaurant and a small version of Milwaukee’s great Italian grocery and deli, Glorioso’s. Giving a warm and inviting welcome to guests is the restaurant’s huge, wood-fired pizza oven centered at the back of the restaurant behind the kitchen. Seating is limited, but appeared to be more than adequate for the lunch crowd on a busy Saturday afternoon, which is precisely when we stopped in.
Service as warm and friendly as the pizza oven quickly brought two 12-inch pies to our table: a “Capricciosa” for $16, featuring tomato, mushrooms, ham, artichokes, olives, salami with mozzarella, and a “Calabrese” for $13.25 that had tomato, mozzarella, hot sopressata salami and fresh basil. Though there is a comprehensive wine list, we washed those big pies down with a couple of Moretti beers imported from Italy at $4 each. Not bad, in our opinion!
There are daily specials that feature soups, salads, sandwiches, and special pizzas along with sandwiches, fish and pasta dishes at lunch. The regular pizza menu has too many great, classic pies for us to list them all, but here are a few that caught our collective eye and caused us to struggle a great deal when deciding which to order:
- “Margherita” ($12.50) with tomato, bufala mozzarella and basil
- “Bufalina Bianca” ($17.95) with imported, Italian bufala mozzarella, bufala ricotta, smoked mozzarella, parmigiano, prosciutto di Parma, fresh tomatoes and arugula
- “Prosciutto e Funghi” ($12.50) with tomato, ham, mozzarella and mushrooms
- “Affumicata” ($16.25) with tomato, roasted eggplant, Italian sausage, mozzarella and smoked mozzarella
- “Mediterranea” ($14.00) with tomato, mozzarella, onion, hot coppa salami and olives, and the “Pugliese” for $14.75 featuring tomato, Italian sausage, rapini and mozzarella
Alas – so many pizzas, so little time!
Start things off with a selection from the antipasti menu, like “Bruschetta alla Campania” for $5.95 which features their homemade bread with fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, extra-virgin olive oil and cherry tomato, or “Mozzarella Pizzaiola” for $8.95 which is fresh mozzarella sautéed with tomato, oregano and olives (it is served with garlic-rubbed toast). There’s also a large, mixed antipasti platter for $19.95 with their antipasto salad, giardiniera, wood-fired mushrooms, roasted peppers, “glop” (Stefano’s homemade Italian cheese spread), and salad with marinated chicken in balsamic vinegar, taralli and bufala mozzarella.
The lunch menu, served Monday through Friday, offers, among many other things, Ravioli of the day for $14.95 made in-house, “Orecchiette con Le Rape e Salsiccia” for $14.50 (sautéed rapini with garlic), chili paste and Willow Creek Farms Italian sausage in a light but intense tomato glaze, and “Fedelini con Filetto di Pomodori” for $10.75 which is fresh cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, sea salt, arugula in a light tomato glaze and tossed with parmesan cheese.
A number of Panini sandwiches are also served at lunch. A vegetarian Panini is $10.95 and consists of roasted bell peppers, roasted roma tomatoes, roasted mushrooms, zucchini, tomato, bufala mozzarella and fresh asiago. The “Caprese con Pesto e Proscuiutto” for $11.95 has bufala mozzarella, prosciutto, basil, fresh tomatoes and pesto.
You can follow it all up with tiramisu, chocolate tartufo and sorbets for dessert for $5.95 or less!
Il Ritrovo – http://www.ilritrovopizza.com 515 South 8th Street, Sheboygan (920) 803-7516. Major credit cards accepted. Reservations recommended for parties of 5 or more. Carry-out available.
Mr. M.’s Basic Italian Panini Recipe (makes two sandwiches).
1 medium-small (12” long) French baguette or Italian bread loaf, cut in half
1, 8 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese ball
6 – 8 oz. prosciutto, smoked ham or Genovese salami, deli sliced
Boston lettuce leaves, to dress the sandwiches (optional)
4 Tbs. pesto (optional)
2 – 3 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
4 Tbs. spicy-brown mustard
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
Cut the Mozzarella ball into eight equal-sized slices. Make sandwiches by slicing open the loaf of bread lengthwise, then laying down a layer of Boston lettuce to taste (if using it), sun-dried tomato slices (if using them), cheese slices, then deli-meat slices to taste, then more cheese slices on top of the salami layer; drizzle all over with olive oil.
Spread a little pesto and/or mustard on the inside of the top bread slice; close up to make the sandwiches.
Cook Panini-style until the cheese melts (when you hear it sizzling in the pan), about three to four minutes each side on medium-low heat.
We do the sandwiches on a flat, stove-top grill pan; We press them down with a large skillet-pan, the bottom of which we have wrapped in clean aluminum foil. We place the sandwiches in the hot grill-pan, then place the foil-wrapped skillet on the sandwiches, then load the skillet-pan with a few plates to weigh it down and create that nice Panini-press effect.