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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

Balistreri's Bluemound Inn Still Going Strong

Supper club meets Italy at classic Milwaukee restaurant

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Balistreri's Bluemound Inn adds Italian accents to the feel of a classic supper club. You enter into the barroom, where you will almost always find a few regulars enjoying a drink. White linen tablecloths adorned with butcher paper dot the landscape of the two dining rooms. Italian knickknacks are everywhere. At this time of the year, Christmas lights combine with everyday lights that look like grapevines to create a colorful display. There also is an outdoor deck with a roof.

The menu's heart is Italian-American, but it also includes steak, pork chops, chicken and Friday fish fry, as well as prime rib that is served on weekends.

Start with the fried eggplant strips ($11.50), also available as a half-order. The larger version is a heaping serving that should be enough for four people. The eggplant strips arrive with tomato sauce and lemon wedges. The bleu beef ($12) is a serving of very tender tenderloin tips with melted Gorgonzola cheese. It is served with crostinis, slices of Italian bread with garlic butter.

The daily soups and salads may be purchased a la carte, though it should be noted that a choice of soup or salad is included with the entrees. Pleasant tomato bisque is always available. Salad choices include a Caesar salad, a tossed salad, and the Balistreri's salad. Opt for the last one, which comes with bits of blue cheese, crispy prosciutto and tangy mustard vinaigrette.

One item of note on the lunch menu is the Bluemound Inn classic whitehouse ($10). This relic of supper clubs past is a casserole dish filled with slices of turkey, ham and bacon baked in a mushroom cream sauce and two types of cheese. Topped with toast points, this meal is very filling. It also is quite a bargain, as soup or salad is included.

Many customers are seen picking up thin-crust pizzas to go. The margherita ($16) is made with fresh mozzarella, sliced Roma tomatoes and fresh basil. An even better option is the white pizza, which offers four cheeses, mushrooms, garlic butter and truffle oil. With side salads or an appetizer, these pizzas should be large enough for two.

Friday offers fish specials of walleye, cod, perch and tilapia. Lunch has pan-fried perch ($14) with light breading, Italian seasonings and garlic. It's one of the best.

On the meaty side is veal Balistreri ($20), a breaded, tender cutlet served over spinach, eggplant slices and prosciutto with marinara sauce. Order a side of angel-hair pasta with garlic butter and slivers of fresh basil. This is good veal at a very fair price.

The interesting wine list is mainly Italian and domestic; one page is devoted to Tuscan vintages. The menu suggests wine pairings for most of the items.

The Bluemound Inn is at its quietest during lunchtime. Dinnertime is always busy on the weekends, but the service staff and the kitchen are up to the task of making every visit a pleasant experience. This is how restaurants stay in business for more than 30 years.

Balistreri's Bluemound Inn

6501 W. Bluemound Road

(414) 258-9881

$$-$$$

Credit Cards: All Major

balistreris.com