Bay View Place Has Great Pizza, Pasta
Santino’s Little Italy opened a year ago, a great addition to city’s Italian restaurants.
Like many fans of Santino’s Little Italy, I found this Italian gem because it’s on the way to Barnacle Bud’s, at the north end of Bay View. It looked interesting, a corner bar turned restaurant, a new place to check out some day, my very own discovery to share with friends who appreciate dive bars and good food.
Was I wrong! Santino’s may still be in its youth after a year, but it’s hardly news to people who like wood-fired pizza and Italian food served in a bistro-like setting. In the past it was a “biker” bar, as in Harley, not Trek. For the makeover, current owners Greg Huber, Santo Galati and Nick Anton gutted the place down to the studs. Now it’s small, cozy, with a bar running the length of the restaurant, and tables for two along the opposite wall, which can be joined together to accommodate four or six. For a group, there’s a high top in front that seats a tight dozen.
After two dinners, I can give Santino’s a rave: everything sampled was first rate, starting with the Melanzana Fritti, eggplant breaded and deep fried until the coating was crusty. Served with the house-made marinara, you’ll find this a tasty Antipasti to share. In my opinion, this chunky marinara dipping sauce may be the best you’ll find in Milwaukee. This sauce also accompanies a second Antipasti, the Bocce Ball, a 10-ounce meatball which could be almost as big as its namesake. You’ll want to share this one; it’s a solid chunk of meat, your Italian Grandmother’s meatball made with veal, Italian sausage, and spices. Five little Kalamata olives, served on a toothpick, add a salty garnish to finish the dish.
There’s more on the Antipasti Menu: Bruschetta, Focaccia with olive oil, Calamari Fritti, and an Antipasti Platter with meat, cheese, olives, and wood fired Italian bread.
The first thing you notice when you come into Santino’s is the pizza which graces almost every table down the line from the entrance to the kitchen. A companion and I shared the basic Margherita, tomato sauce, Grande mozzarella, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil. It had a thin, yet chewy crust with enough cheese and fresh basil to give it character, but not enough to overpower the delicious red sauce. The pizza chef knew exactly when to pull it from the oven to put it on the tipping point between not quite burned and yet nicely charred.
You could eat here nightly for more than two weeks and still not sample all the pizza combinations on the menu. Or create your own pizza, starting with the 12-inch crust, tomato sauce, mozzarella, then for $1.00 each, add up to three toppings. For an additional $2.00, they’ll make you a gluten free crust.
On a second visit, the pasta dishes, all made with penne rigate, sounded too good to pass on. Both the Pasta Carbonara and the Milano exceeded expectations.
For the Milano, the chef coated every bit of the penne with house made pesto, then added fresh cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and shaved asiago. Like the Margherita Pizza, it showed off simple, fresh ingredients, a delicious bowl of al dente pasta to savor. A bottle of extra virgin olive oil on the table added a classy touch, especially since they don’t serve bread with the pasta. They leave the olive oil on the table so you can eat like the Italians do, and drizzle it on your pasta, pizza, or whatever you ordered.
There’s one more pasta dish, the Gigante Meatball Plate, penne in tomato sauce with that giant meatball sitting on top, daring you to eat the whole thing.
If you’re looking for something light, you could order from Salads: the House, Caprese, Mediterranean, Caesar or Shrimp.
For dessert, you need to ask your server. The night we did, there were three choices: tiramisu, chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and gelato.
Santino’s gets my five stars for the food and more. Street parking, no problem. Friendly competent service, absolutely. A mile long bar, a place to linger while you wait for the table you reserved because yes, reservations are strongly recommended, especially on weekends.
Come early, 4:00-6:00 for Happy Hour, to get $3.00 wine pours, drafts, rail mixes and $5.00 sangria. Drink your wine in the stylish stemless wine glasses, stay for dinner and you will not be disappointed.
- Location: 352 E. Stewart St.
- Phone: 414-897-7367
- Hours: 4 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Tue-Thu, 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri-Sat
- Website: http://santinoslittleitaly.com
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/santinositaly
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Santinoslittleitaly/
- UM Rating: 4.75 stars (average of Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato)