Although you enter through a long narrow passage, Carmella's is a little jewel nestled next to SAP Bakery and Penzey's Spices.
The food and menu bring to mind my visits to Italy. The waitstaff is courteous and professional, and the restaurant is clean and inviting. Prices are on the higher end, but not unreasonable for the quality and portion size.
A delicoous hot peasant bread with olive oil and basalmic vinegar in a small bowl were delivered, and although there were no herbs and I had to re-incorporate the balsamic as it had separated, this was a delicious beginning to our wonderful meal.
Calamari was fried perfectly in a light batter - not overcooked and plenty of tentacle (the best part), not just the rings from the mantle, as you tend to get from so many restaurants nowadays! The dipping sauce was a fra diavolo and a delicious lemon mayonnaise was perfectly prepared.
The Panini were delicious, cooked perfectly on the fresh baked peasant bread (which I believe comes from their sister bakery - SAP). The Muffaletta could have used more olive tapenade, but I love olive tapenade, so that might just be me. My girlfriend's Chicken Parmesan Panini was wonderful, she asked for the marinara on the side, and we all enjoyed the taste so much we bought a jar to take home. (I now wish I'd spent the money for the Bacon Jam they sold - it looked wonderful). The panini were served with a fresh spring green salad, which was also delicious.
Even though we were there mid-afternoon (2:15), there were quite a few tables eating. It appears that Carmella's has three dining areas, if you count the alfresco seating, and there were plenty of attentive staff.
This is one of the best meals we have had since moving to Central Wisconsin and certainly the best Italian. It reminded me of Biaggio in Middleton and VIncenzo's in Cincinnati (Springdale).
Highly recommend this restaurant for any occasion.
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