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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Taking Salads Seriously

Mequon’s Salotto Zarletti also serves pasta and pizza in an inviting setting

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Brian Zarletti continues to expand his empire. After successes like the aptly named Zarletti along with Rustico and Stubby’s, he has set his eyes on Mequon. The location of his newest place, Salotto Zarletti, is in a small luxury mall formerly occupied by Laacke & Joys. It’s been transformed into a charming setting with wood floors, high ceilings, two levels and large windows. Near the entry is a lounge area with sofas, fireplace and a view of an inviting bar. Add a lovely outdoor dining terrace and you have a rustic setting, Mequon-style.

Salotto Zarletti’s menu combines elements of Zarletti, with its focus on dinner entrées, and Rustico, which stresses pizzas and more casual fare. This is a season for lighter fare and the new place fits this bill very well. Caponata ($6) takes a lighter take on this Sicilian favorite. It is served with thin slices of bread and the eggplant spread is studded with capers, pine nuts and golden raisins, eschewing any tomato. Arancini ($9) is a serving of three rice balls hued with a hint of saffron over a rich ragu Napoletana and dusted with grated cheese. It’s a pleasing start.

Salads are taken seriously here, as reflected in the prices. The simply titled salotto ($6) is arugula with cherry tomatoes, slices of red onion, grated pecorino cheese and roasted-tomato vinaigrette. Flavors are on target. The asparagus salad ($7) is chopped asparagus mixed with small pieces of lettuce with more pecorino and dressed with balsamic mosto. The balsamic adds a bolder element but the real treat here is the few slices of guanciale, fatty pork cheek cured in-house and so very good.

At lunch the heartier choices are pizzas and pastas. The dinner menu adds entrées and a few more starter courses. How good are the pizzas? These have a thin crust with a thicker rim and are cooked in a wood-fired oven. They are chewy to the bite—this is not a Chicago-style deep-dish experience. Care is taken in the ingredients. The pizza Romana ($13) is simple in concept with a thin coating of tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and the occasional caper or piece of white anchovy filet sprinkled on top. For something bolder opt for a pizza diavola ($14), which has more cheese, spicy sausage, soppressata (a dry salami) and fresh basil.

The pastas are another strong point. Strozzapreti ($14) is Central Italian pasta lovingly presented with peas, fresh basil, thin strips of pancetta and some mighty fine herbed breadcrumbs laced with garlic. Risotto verde ($17) is perfect for this season with seasonal peas and asparagus and, again, pine nuts. The short-grained rice is perfectly prepared.

Salotto Zarletti is a success. The setting is comfortable and the terrace inviting. While a pizza and a salad can be a bit pricey for lunch, sandwiches are less expensive. Take a bit of a splurge at dinner and explore the entire menu.

 

Salotto Zarletti

1515 W. Mequon Road

262-241-5990

$$-$$$

salottozarletti.com

Handicapped access: yes