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Friday, Jan. 11, 2008

Friday Means Fish

Second helpings at Alioto’s

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Can I bring more fish here?” asks the waitress in an expectant tone. More coffee, sure—most restaurants still offer a bottomless cup. But fish? It’s been years since the all-you-can-eat fish fry was as common in Milwaukee as sea gulls on the lakefront. The Friday fish fry has stubbornly persisted as a touchstone of local culinary culture, but all-you-can-eat has fallen victim to economics.

“Can I bring more fish here?” asks the waitress at Alioto’s. At this long-running Wauwatosa restaurant, Friday still means all the fish you want for one low price. Lately, I’ve gone from fish fry to fish fry at noon on Fridays. Most are mediocre or worse, meaning processed fish patties or fish whose centers are an unappetizing silver gray. But Alioto’s has maintained standards along with prices. Their fish is the real deal. The Icelandic cod ($9.95) is served in a generous portion, brought family style to the table along with french fries and lemon wedges. The batter is light and fried just right to a crispy golden brown. The center is white, flaky and firm, not rubbery.

Alioto’s Italian heritage is preserved in some residual lunch menu items, including a meatball sandwich and chicken Parmesan, and the substitution of a loaf of sliced Italian bread for the more Germanic rye typically found at a Milwaukee fish fry. The waitress offered a second helping of bread, too. Alioto’s atmosphere dates from the era when all-you-can-eat wasn’t limited to crummy steam-table buffets. The large dining room is wood paneled like a rec room and the green vinyl upholstered chairs have survived long enough to be called retro chic. But more important is the food. Alioto’s fish fry is a flavorful reminder of the best things from Milwaukee in times gone by.

ALIOTO’S
3041 N. Mayfair Road, Wauwatosa, WI 53222
(414) 476-6900

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