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Prime Location

Fratellos on the river

Jun. 11, 2008
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Fortunatelyfor local businesses, all the talk of a recession doesn’t seem to be hampering area restaurants. More and more chains continue to discover Milwaukee, the latest of which is Fratellos. The first Fratellos opened in Oshkosh, with subsequent locations in Green Bay and Appleton. The Milwaukee site is a choice one: on the ground floor of a new condominium located on Water Street beside the Milwaukee River.

Patrons enter into a bar, which is separated from the dining room by a glass partition and stacked wine bottles. An outdoor dining deck provides views of river activity and a great canyon of condominiums. The name Fratellos hints at Italian, and you will find pizzas and pastas on the menu. There are also steaks, salads and even Asian-inspired stir-fry options. Budget-minded diners will find many sandwiches for less than $10. One item of note is the “fratbread,” a wafer-thin flatbread that appears with sandwich wraps and pizzas.

The seafood appetizers tend to be a bit more daring than the other starters. Tuna lollipops ($9.99) are pieces of ahi tuna cooked rare and coated with black and white sesame seeds. They are best eaten without the provided sauces. The “Signature” crab cakes appear as an appetizer ($8.99), with a Caesar salad ($11.99) and as an entre ($17.99). If there is any crabmeat in them, though, it is hard to find, as they are pasty and flavorless. And the sushi maki ($9.99) will make you wish that you were at a real Japanese restaurant. The white chicken chili ($2.99-5.99) goes beyond “Signature” and calls itself “World Famous.”

Unfortunately, the hint of cumin gets lost in a sea of sweet white starch. You’re better off sticking to items that are made with the fratbread; it’s crisp and makes a fine crust for a thin-crust pizza. A good choice is portobello mushroom and bacon ($9.99); the mushrooms are sliced and the bacon finely chopped. Add a vibrant tomato sauce, Gorgonzola cheese and chopped fresh basil and you have a winner, a perfect item to savor on the outdoor deck with a glass of wine.

Bypassing steaks and pastas, I ventured into the entrees named “Fratellos Signatures.” Pork osso bucco is one option; the safer-sounding bruschetta chicken ($15.99) is another, and consists of boneless chicken breast with a bread coating that is topped with mozzarella. The menu claims that it’s fresh mozzarella, but it doesn’t seem like it. Nevertheless, it’s good enough with a few drizzles of balsamic vinegar. The downfall is the pesto-infused bed of risotto. A good risotto is made with a firm short-grained rice that never ends up mushy, as this rice did.

In spite of its shortcomings, Fratellos has some strengths as well. Customers seem perfectly happy with the sandwich and pizza choices. The wine list includes unusual vintages and abundant bottles in the $20 to $40 range. And Wisconsin products are used frequently, including beers from the Fox River Brewery of Oshkosh, which is another division of this restaurant group.

Fratellos’ location is a prime one. In fact, it’s one of the nicest along the river. Perhaps that will prove to be enough.

102 N. Water St. (414) 271-1740 $$-$$$ Credit Cards: MC, VS, AX Smoking: Bar only Handicap Access: Yes

Photos by Jessica Kaminski


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