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In Dining Reviews

With a moderately thin-thick crust, zesty sauce and fresh toppings, Calderone Club may have the best pizza in the city. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Whether out for a casual meal, romantic evening or business lunch, you'll feel comfortable in the dining room. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

Diners can also choose from an impressive wine list. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

In Dining Reviews

In addition to the restaurant, Calderone Club also offers a friendly bar setting. (PHOTO: Whitney Teska )

Calderone Club has Italian cuisine and hospitality down to a science


October is the fourth-annual Dining Month on OnMilwaukee.com. All month, we're stuffed with restaurant reviews, delicious features, chef profiles, unique articles on everything food, as well as the winners of our "Best of Dining 2010."

Italian cuisine may be one of America's best-loved cuisines. Heaping plates of pasta, garlic bread -- with or without cheese -- and of course pizza seem to make just about everyone's lists for comfort food.

And every Italian restaurant seems to have their own method for creating both the food and atmosphere, ranging from red and white plastic tablecloths serving up rectangular pizzas on cookie sheets with Peroni to fancy, white-tablecloth restaurants with menus featuring risotto, veal piccata and prosecco.

Somewhere in the middle lands Calderone Club, 842 N. Old World 3rd St., a family-owned Italian restaurant and Downtown hangout that won OnMilwaukee.com's Milwaukee Challenge for pizza earlier this year.

I've been going to Calderone for years, and it's not the pizza that keeps me coming back, even though with a moderately thin-thick crust, zesty sauce and fresh toppings, it likely is one of the best in the city.

For me, the real appeal of Calderone Club is the consistent, spot-on food and attentive service. The Downtown location entertains a lot of large local office groups, and with good reason, as you don't have to worry about mixed up orders or subpar food coming to the tables. Mix in a nice bar crowd and speedy, pre-event service and Calderone is a winner every time, whether you're look for a quick pizza or a romantic, but not too upscale date location.

My most recent visit to Calderone Club with my husband, a first-time visitor, was even better than I had remembered, and leaves me still able to say that after over a half dozen visits here, I've never had a bad experience.

The dinner menu at Calderone offers simple Italian antipasti like mozzarella marinara ($8.95), eggplant strips ($9.95) and calamari ($10.95), all served with Calderone's excellent marinara sauce. Salads and a daily minestrone soup round out the starters and lead well into a substantial selection of pasta dishes and familiar Italian entrées, and unsurprisingly an entire page devoted to pizzas.

Selections from the Secondi Piatti (entrées) section of the menu come with a house salad, warm Italian bread, and choice of potato or pasta. The house salad is better than average and the servers take the time to ask if you'd like fresh ground pepper.

An entrée of eggplant parmesan ($17.95) appeared light and yet meaty at the same time. The eggplant was browned just enough to provide a lovely robust flavor beneath the layers of cheese and sauce that complemented the vegetable to perfection, and the portion was generous without being overwhelming. We ordered a side of meatballs (two for $4.50) to accompany the penne that came with the eggplant, and were presented with a bowl of two tender meatballs in a heady and delicious tomato basil sauce.

Penne con salcissia piccante ($15.95) layered generous pieces of spicy Italian sausage over homemade penne in a creamy tomato sauce with the soft contrast of pecorino romano shining through. The heat of the sausage was just enough to give the plate kick without making me hot under the color. Penne con salcissia piccante is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes and Calderone did the plate more than justice, but the most notable part of the experience of eating this dish was my water glass.

When the server delivered our plates, she brought me more water immediately and asked about the heat quotient, which was to my liking. For the duration of our meal, she and the other three servers on the floor made it a point to keep my water glass full for the entire hour we spent dining -- they all were aware that I had a spicier dish, and they all worked together to make sure my water glass was always full. It was an impressive and appreciated team approach to making certain that every diner was taken care of, and for me, it was confirmation that Calderone Club truly has Italian cuisine and hospitality down to a science. I look forward to my next visit.


Talkbacks

cats1usa | March 9, 2011 at 7:34 p.m. (report)

Gino is a BIG MOUTH, FOUL MOUTHED Owner, who, as of the last time I was there a few weeks ago, cussed out a Parking Checker, "We have an AGREEMENT with Ald. BAUMAN, we don't have to pay the Meters and We Don't get tickets on this corner" . This after a checker stopped to write an expired meter on an employees car on Kilbourn Ave. Needless to say after all the cussing and threats towards this City Official, we lost our appetite and felt threatened ourselves. We ate fast and left. We will NEVER go back there again, though, I'd like to have an agreement with my Alderman to never get a ticket.

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Downtowner. | Oct. 19, 2010 at 10:13 a.m. (report)

Best pizza in Milwaukee. A great bar, too. Always comfortable, always delicious.

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HarleyRider | Oct. 18, 2010 at 9:45 p.m. (report)

I miss the Bradford location with Mama and Frank, it was worth the drive to be entertained by the two of them. The food was just an added attraction, which was always good.

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zombielibrarian | Oct. 18, 2010 at 2:12 p.m. (report)

Unfortunately my husband and I did not experience the same attentive service you did when we went there in May. Our waiter did not even smile or say hi when he approached our table and was visibly pissed off that he had to wait on yet another table. The restaurant was very, very busy (it was during the state Republican convention), so I understand it was stressful, but both my husband and I have worked in the service industry and know that no matter how frazzled and stressed you are, you are at least polite and accommodating to everyone you are serving. With that aside, the food was quite good ( calamari for appetizer and great pastas for the main course), but I am not sure we will ever go back for fear of getting that horrific waiter. Needless to say, he got a very tiny tip.

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lks | Oct. 18, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. (report)

Love their gnocchi. When the Bradford location was still open, I used to eat take out multiple times per week. Probably best on my waist line they closed that location.

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