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Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012

A Little Rome in New Berlin

Abbondanza at Bellafini’s Trattoria

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About an hour north of Milwaukee a couple set up shop on an unassuming side street off the city's main drag to share the husband's legacy of hearty Italian recipes. Their restaurant, Bellafini’s Trattoria, was a highlight in Fond du Lac, at first offering a folksier lunch and dinner menu before upgrading to only evening hours and more haute offerings. After five years in this location, the couple decided to relocate.

Fond du Lac's recent loss has been New Berlin's gain. Bellafini's Trattoria has struck a balance in elegance and abbondanza at a reasonable price. Gone is the homey deli environs with specials scrawled on a chalkboard; the new digs in New Berlin favor shiny black and white tiled floors and an airiness of space for its relatively compact locale.

Flavorful dishes with unique twists reward diners. All meals begin with freshly prepared bread resembling pan-fried pita. A delightful garlic butter and tapenade, none too salty nor fishy, accompany the warm slices that are crisp on the outside and sweetly soft within.

A portabella mushroom stuffed with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses, wine and butter ($8) beckoned among other appetizers, including bruschetta made with fresh basil ($7) and carcoccali artichoke dip served with more bread and pasta chips ($8). Our appetites not being so ravenous, we made do with the choice of soup or salad before our entrees.

My companion's Caesar salad ($4) benefited from prominent oil and vinegar flavors over its crunchy romaine lettuce and rosemary-parmesan croutons. My memories of the Fond du Lac location's scrumptiously complex pasta fagioli soup, which can be a meal unto itself, prompted my anticipation for the minestrone ($4). It proved the weak link in the meal, being a bit bland with a fairly meager mix of penne noodles and veggies.

That disappointment was quickly forgiven with the arrival of the entrees. My guest was first hungering for lasagna ($12), made with multiple meats. He opted instead for chicken parmigiano ($15) with marinara sauce made from fresh, tasty tomatoes. The meat was thinly pounded inside the crackly breading.

My pork spiedini ($14) was listed as consisting of multiple skewers of breadcrumb-and-parmesan baked meat. Instead, one super-skewer rested on the plate above linguine ortaggio, succulent with juicy late-season vegetables. The savory combination of tastes had me wishing for at least a half-skewer more of the tender porcine delight.

Dessert will have to wait for another visit, but among the expected tiramisu ($6) and spumoni ice cream ($3), two items were intriguing: ricotta cheesecake topped with a pistachio whipped cream ($5) and scurciatti ($4), a fried dough in cinnamon sugar confection resembling a Mediterranean parallel to Mexican sopapillas.

Pizzas ($10-$27), calzones ($8) and an English-style fish fry ($12) number among Bellafini's other offerings. Eggplant-based torre di melanzane ($14) gives vegetarians a heftier entree option.

 

Bellafini’s Trattoria

15175 W. National Ave.

New Berlin

(262) 787-3007

$-$$

Handicap accessible

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