Sometimes, in certain neighborhoods, in the right places–the beautiful ones that seem unchanged by time, frozen several generations ago–if I squint hard enough, I can picture my grandparents, enjoying a meal with friends, smiling and laughing.
It is a comforting thought, these spaces shared with those who came before; home to conversation, fun and revelry, food and beer.
Bay View’s Tenuta’s (TJ’s pick, Shannon also submitted two entries) is one of those places. Cindi said:
How lucky are we to have such an idealistic Italian pizza place in our neighborhood? There is a certain charm to this cozy nook; you can tell that everyone around you feels it. There are few places I’d rather eat at on a chilly, Wisconsin night.
We were there on a Friday, and our reservations came in handy. The place was packed. Many of us had been there before, but this was my first time inside.
Scaling the front steps and entering though the front door, your nose is greeted by the smell of pizza and garlic. The whole place is laid out in front of you…medium-sized bar tucked to the right behind the hostess stand and tables full of people packing every open space to the left and back, with the kitchen hidden behind it all. I loved the dimly lit, crowded feel and cacophony of voices at Tenuta’s.
At the table, we studied the sizable beer, drink and wine lists. I ordered a Milwaukee Brewing Co. Polish Moon to celebrate “Stout Day.” Adam got a drink our grandparents would have gotten, he said:
I ordered a bourbon old-fashioned sour and it was so good that I decided to double down with another.
Shannon opted for a wine, she said:
I never remember the kind of wine I get there so I always ask. They always ask me questions about the taste and they troubleshoot. Truth is: I just can’t pronounce it so when they do, I say, yep, that’s it.
I enjoyed the antipasto plate appetizer. The olives were salty and delicious and all of the meats were unique and flavorful. Everyone else must have as well, because we finished nearly the entire thing as well as some Italian bread that came before the meal.
We ordered dinner and another drink. We weren’t in a hurry. Shannon said:
The server was awesome. I thought she was really attentive and knowledgable about the menu.
Dinner came in a good amount of time, not too fast, not too slow. Mike liked the presentation. He said:
Even with our small table, the waitress set up the pizzas so we could still talk to each other without them being a hindrance.
Despite the crowded restaurant, I never felt rushed to finish.
Admittedly, my pizza was a very simple, plain thing to order, but that offers opportunities for the limited ingredients to really shine through. Sadly, neither the sausage, my favorite pizza ingredient, nor the sauce (I chose regular marinara sauce over the house sauce, which contained cheese) really distinguished itself. Both sausage and sauce use such specific spices and in a great version of each, those things stick out and make themselves known. I didn’t really get that here.
Shannon, a regular Tenuta’s diner, decided to try something different than her regular dish, Ravioli di Funghi. She said:
Since this was a special occasion, I wanted to try something new. I went with the Friday Fish Fry and got the baked perch. It was supposed to come with baked potatoes but I opted for the mashed. The entire plate was great. I thought the fish was very well flavored and the starch and veggies on the plate all mixed well together.
TJ did order the Ravioli di Funghi. He said:
I loved it. The sauce was very rich and the serving size was plenty big.
I ate a fair share of it. That dish is just so good!
Michelle loves the pizza, but chose a chicken dish. She said:
I really enjoyed my food. It was pretty simplistic–chicken, pasta, marinara sauce and goat cheese–but delicious. I would order almost anything that includes goat cheese and it was the best part of this dish.
Mike also had a chicken dish, he said:
I’m a huge fan of chicken parmesan and it’s usually my go-to when I eat Italian. The chicken was good and the spaghetti was delicious. The sauce is what makes or breaks the meal and Tenuta’s sauce is really good.
Cindi and Adam split a Diavola pizza. Adam said:
The Diavola comes with pepperoni, giardiniera peppers, mozzarella, cream cheeses, pineapple and Tenuta’s homemade pizza sauce. Although this combination might sounds kind of odd, I promise it is outstanding and this visit, it was just as excellent as it always is.
I love it so much. Seriously. So. Much. And you can’t find it anywhere else.
Shannon and Michelle also loved the Diavola. Michelle added:
The combination of pineapple, giardiniera and cream cheese is so unique. I would order that again and again.
For dessert, we ordered the tiramisu. Adam said:
The tiramisu was good but I prefer the ladyfingers to be more heavily soaked in espresso. I don’t know if that is how is supposed to be served, but that’s just the way I like it.
The tiramisu was a very generous size and was delicious.
We all enjoyed Tenuta’s, throwing out words like “cozy” and “neighborhood place.” The prices were about what you’d expect. The service was good and some of us think the pizza is among the best in town. Adam said:
I would recommend Tenuta’s to most anyone that enjoys Italian food and certainly to anyone looking for a great pizza. It is also a fantastic atmosphere for a date – whether it first, second or one hundredth.
Whenever we have friends in from out of town, Tenuta’s is often the first place we consider. I think that is a true sign of how good the place is.
Ratings for Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant were, as follows:
Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant cumulative rating: 7.9
Nightcap: Koz’s Mini Bowl
Following dinner, we headed over to Koz’s Mini Bowl for some mini bowling. If you are going on a weekend, a reservation is a must if you’d like to bowl before midnight.
When we got there, the place was pretty crowded and Milwaukee’s old beer titans–Schlitz and Pabst–were pouring cheap and cold from the tap, just the way they were a few generations ago.
At Koz’s, pins are set by the hands of two pinsetters and strikes come with regularity. We played three games of mini bowling and dumped way too much money in the jukebox. Adam said:
I followed up dinner by blowing a 300 game in the tenth frame of duckpin bowling. Some of us just weren’t cut out for greatness.
Koz’s was the perfect conclusion to this uniquely Milwaukee, throwback evening. We made new memories in places we share with all the people who have called this city home.
Visit Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant online here.
Visit Koz’s Mini Bowl online here.
Photos courtesy of TJ UTTKE PHOTOGRAPHY
Losing nominations for ‘T’ were: Three Brothers x2 (Cindi), Trocadero (Nick and Mike) and Triskele’s (Michelle and Adam).
Introduction to the ABCs of Milwaukee Dining
AJ Bombers: 6.8
Beta by Sabor: 7.9
Comet Cafe: 7
Eatery on Farwell: 6.2
Fajitas Grill: 5.3
Hinterland Erie Street Gastropub: 7.5
Irie Palace: 6.2
Jow Nai Fouquet: 6.9
Louise’s Trattoria: 5.2
Newsroom Pub: 5.4
Odd Duck: 8.2
Pizza Shuttle: 5.2
Quivey’s Grove: 6.9
Rumpus Room: 7.2
Seoul Korean Restaurant: 4.7
Tenuta’s Italian Restaurant: 7.9
WHERE ARE WE EATING NEXT?