This unassuming restaurant on 68th Street has all delicious food with a neighborhood feel. They've been around for decades (I used to go there in college) for good reason. While you really can't go wrong, there are two things to get here that I think many would consider their signature items - the fried eggplant strips and any version of their pizza.
Start with the fried eggplant strips - seriously, start your meal with an order. Note that in order to preserve the integrity of the frying oil, they don't offer these until late at night on Fridays so that they are not frying fish for their Friday fish fry along with the eggplant. That would be just wrong. On any other night order yourself a nice New Glarus Brewery Spotted Cow beer and marvel at the bowl of fried eggplant, lightly salted and served with lemon wedges and marinara sauce. While I'm sure many would disagree, I personally would recommend skipping the marinara sauce and just squirting the lemon juice over the pile of strips and taste what makes Balistrieri's famous. I believe that because the eggplant is cut into thin strips as opposed into rounds the ratio of soft eggplant to crunchy coating is just right.
Next get the pizza. I'm not always a fan of thin crust pizza because it sometimes can inch into tasting like a cracker with toppings, but not here. It doesn't matter what toppings you order, you can't go wrong - it always comes out balanced and flavorful and a true pizza. Their style is to serve it on big flat baking pans, cut into what my husband calls "little puzzle pieces" instead of wedge slices. The little trapezoid shaped pieces are just big enough to pick up and devour in two or three bites, and you just keep picking them off of that baking pan - the pizza looked so big when it arrived, how could it be gone?
If you are visiting Milwaukee, you may not think to go looking for great Italian-American cuisine, but look here. If you live in Milwaukee, isn't it time to go back?
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