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Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010

Il Mito Among Area’s Best Italian Restaurants

Chef Michael Feker knows how to innovate

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Chef/owner Michael Feker opened Il Mito 10 years ago in Walker’s Point. He introduced the current location in Wauwatosa about four years ago and shuttered the original space in 2007.

When Il Mito appeared on the scene, its cuisine was described as “California Mediterranean.” The Italian influence eventually won out, and now the restaurant bills its food as “Italian with a Mediterranean twist.” Today, Il Mito ranks as one of the very best Italian restaurants in the area.

The inviting casual décor uses earthy tones for its color theme. The front dining area offers large windows and the bar in the rear is the perfect place for piatti piccoli (appetizers) accompanied by a glass of wine or a Moretti beer. An adjacent room has a kitchen where chef Feker conducts cooking classes and holds private dinners.

The most inviting time to visit might be at lunch, when the dining area is seldom crowded. Weekend evenings definitely call for a reservation.

The lunch menu consists of main dishes like panini, pizzas and pastas. All items include soup or salad—and this can be an agonizing choice. One soup was a potato leek, a puree topped with a round of baguette, with a surface that glistened with beads of evoo. The salad, mixed California greens that are tossed in white balsamic vinaigrette, has very elegant, Italian flavors.

There are five pasta selections ($9.95-$11.95) on the lunch menu. The portions are not large, but the ingredients are of top quality. The gnocchi, light potato dumplings in an intensely flavored ragu of beef and chicken, are a delight—a little bit salty, but well worth ordering.

The dinner menu offers a different gnocchi, called con anatra e coniglio ($12.95). This has an arrabbiata sauce with crimini mushrooms, rabbit and Muscovy duck.

You should absolutely try one of the pizzas ($10.95-$11.95), as they are works of art. Chef Feker knows how to innovate. One pizza is described simply as “meat.” On the dinner menu it is called “massacrare.” The thin crust, with grill marks on both sides, is topped with fresh roasted tomato and confit of garlic. The next layer is melted Parmesan cheese. The final topping is paper-thin slices of rib-eye steak and prosciutto. The final result is a pizza masterpiece.

The dinner menu branches out. In addition to more starters, pastas serve as “primi” courses and meat and seafood entrees make up the “secondi.” There are no panini, but pizzas are available.

For dinner, salads are a la carte. Insalata di funghi ($7.95) has four types of roasted mushrooms topped with fresh thyme, shaved Parmesan and lemon zest. They arrive beside mesclun greens tossed with lemon juice and evoo—a very nice starter. The insalata Caesar ($6.95) is even better, though. Romaine comes in the perfect size, the garlic herb croutons are tasty, and bits of egg and bacon will be found in the correct quantity. The dressing does not shy away from the flavor of anchovy in this excellent salad.

Among the pasta choices is capelli d’Angelo primavera ($12.95), angel-hair pasta in a vegetarian preparation with artichoke hearts, asparagus, tomatoes and peas. Add some spinach, garlic, evoo and utterly fresh basil and the flavors start to soar. Everything is in balance.

Also be sure to order the osso buco di vitello ($21.95), which is prepared with white wine and assorted mushrooms. The less expensive stinco d’agnello ($19.95) is a lamb osso buco that is equally compelling, though it uses a very different preparation with eggplant and chardonnay grapes.

While prices have inched upward over the years, they still remain fair. And lunches remain a very good deal. Remember to make reservations for busier nights and keep in mind that Il Mito is also open for lunches on Saturday. Even when the restaurant is crowded, the kitchen is up to the task with properly spaced courses. It is a shame that Il Mito fizzled in Walker’s Point. Wauwatosa is very fortunate to have this restaurant as a resident.

Il Mito Trattoria and Enoteca

6913 W. North Ave.

(414) 443-1414

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

Handicap Accessible

ilmito.com

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